On Khalil Mack's Holdout Entering Raiders Training Camp (and Why He Deserves Top Dollar)

Khalil Mack won't report to Raiders training camp with his teammates on Thursday morning.

There's zero surprise in that.

Reports from ESPN and NFL Network confirmed the obvious Wednesday afternoon, definitely stating Mack won't show up in Napa just yet.

The top-flight edge rusher stayed away during the offseason program, and now continues a contract holdout into the summer looking for a long-term, big money contract extension.

Mack is currently set to play on a fifth-year option worth a fully guaranteed $13.846 million. He's reportedly looking for a nine-figure deal that could raise the market for defensive players, somewhere around the six-year, $114.5 million deal (with $70 million in guarantees) given to Von Miller in 2016.

Mack is certainly worth top dollar. The three-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and 2016 defensive player of the year has 40.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and an interception in four excellent seasons. He might be the NFL's best edge run defender as well, as complete a package as there is at his position.

Mack's also a tireless worker who never gets in trouble, an excellent face of the franchise with superstar power as the team transitions to a new market.

Those are the guys you want to pay.

Mack wants to be rewarded for those efforts. The Raiders gave quarterback Derek Carr and right guard Gabe Jackson – other prominent members of the heralded 2014 draft class -- extensions before last season. Mack had to wait without long-term guarantee. The fifth-year team option attached to first-round picks afforded the Raiders time to space out the deals.

The Silver and Black have budgeted for a big money deal, but a value disparity remains as we head into the 2018 preseason. As of Wednesday afternoon, a pact was not close.

A league source indicated that talks have not gone as the Raiders hoped and planned. They planned to give Mack a mint, but want to pay Mack and Carr – he signed a five-year, $125 million deal last year -- and other stars without handcuffing themselves against the salary cap.

The team wanted a deal done by the start of training camp. That won't happen now.

NFL Network reports that things are tense between Mack's camp and the team.

Withholding services is one of the few leverage points NFL players have available when looking for increased compensation, especially when teams are armed with a franchise tag that keeps a player away from the open free-agent market with a lucrative one-year contract.

While tides can change in a flash and nothing is certain, Mack's holdout could extend well into the preseason.

The Raiders can fine him $30,000 per day missed, per the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. Pro Football Talk unearthed a provision in the CBA that states Mack, like all others on a fifth-year option, could be fined a week's regular-season salary for each preseason game missed.

The Raiders' exhibition opener kickoff on Aug. 10 against Detroit.

Mack isn't the only 2014 first-round pick holding out for a new deal. L.A. Rams interior defensive lineman Aaron Donald is also looking for a massive contract, reportedly one that sets the market for defensive players.

Mack and Donald are looking for similar deals, and are in some ways linked. The players and their respective teams are likely watching how the other contract works out. If Donald signs first, for example, Mack and the Raiders could have a target for a deal of their own.

There's also a rule that a player who holds out with less 30-days before the regular season loses an accrued season toward free agency. Since Donald held out longer than that last year, he needs an accrued season to be an unrestricted free agent at season's and is expected to report to the Rams before Aug. 7.

That could spurn action on his deal, and Mack's as a result.

Mack has been working out hard away from the team, and is undoubtedly in great shape. His absence is not ideal for the Raiders, who are working to install, refine and perfect defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's scheme. Mack's presence would certainly help that process, but the Silver and Black have a plan to give Mack a crash course on his role in the system.

Holding doubt shouldn't mitigate his impact. Donald's an example of that, after winning 2017 defensive player of the year honors despite missing camp and preseason work.

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