NFL Draft Should Allow Raiders, Jon Gruden to Move Past Khalil Mack Trade

INDIANAPOLIS – The Raiders traded Khalil Mack to Chicago nearly six months ago now. The entire season was played since then, one where head coach Jon Gruden routinely took heat for trading the All-Pro edge rusher in the midst of a contract holdout.

The 2018 Raiders got nothing in return for Mack, but there's plenty of draft capital coming in future seasons. The first of two first-round picks received for Mack comes in at No. 24 overall in this year's NFL draft, a lower selection after the Bears' NFC North title run.

The conversation should lean toward what comes from those extra picks, but Gruden got pulled back into the Mack transaction during a Wednesday press conference, when he was asked if the Bears' success changed how he viewed the transaction.

"No. It just doesn't," Gruden said. "We have no control over what happens really other than what we do with the pick."

After hearing about Mack's great loss, this was a time where the Raiders could formally turn the page and start getting a return on the deal.

Gruden got a question about that in a side session with local reporters, but bristled at its phrasing. When the Mack trade was referred to as unpopular, Gruden interrupted before the forward-looking question could turn to the Raiders three first-round picks in this draft.

Gruden's reaction wasn't a surprise. The Mack trade remains a delicate topic, one he's more than ready to move beyond. The Mack trade is past, this offseason is about the future. 

"I get tired of you bringing that up, Khalil Mack," Gruden said. "We made the trade for a lot of reasons. Whether it's popular or not, we did what we had to do in that situation. For the fans that aren't happy, we're really sorry about that. We really are truly sorry. And I'm sorry."

The question then continued, looking toward the upcoming picks and the opportunity to change the conversation away from the Mack trade.

"It's hard to replace a guy like that," Gruden said. "It's sensitive. I'm sensitive about it. I'm happy for Mack. I'm really thrilled for him and his future and all of that. He's a hard guy to replace, and we'll do everything we can. But I do know this: My brother (Washington head coach Jay Gruden) didn't get anything for Kirk Cousins except a compensatory pick. At least we got some picks, and we have a chance to do something with them."

The Raiders received Chicago's first-round picks in 2019 and 2020 as part of a larger trade, but had to give up a 2020 second rounder in return.

Gruden and GM Mike Mayock have three first-round selections this year. They earned the No. 4 overall pick with a 4-12 2018 season performance, and have the No. 24 and 27 selections after trading Mack and receiver Amari Cooper. Those picks will play a huge role in Gruden's roster reconstruction, as will salary-cap flexibility and the team's other draft selections.

[RELATED: Raiders GM Mike Mayock would have drafted Khalil Mack No. 1]

The Raiders have needs all over the place – yes, including edge rusher – but Gruden doesn't want force-fill specific spots. The goal is to acquire the best talent that becomes available and attainable.

"Do don't rush greatness; you don't rush the process," Gruden said. "You look at what you have to spend and what available picks we have and consider all the available issues and do the best you can. … We have to develop players on our roster, and then we have to be patient and do right with what we have."

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