ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Reggie McKenzie never planned to unload Khalil Mack.
Mack had been the foundation of the Oakland Raiders defense ever since McKenzie drafted him fifth overall in 2014, and the plan had always been to build the franchise around Mack and quarterback Derek Carr.
One year after signing Carr to a long-term extension, the Raiders traded Mack to the Chicago Bears on Saturday for a package that included two first-round picks. The deal came after the two sides were unable to bridge a vast gap in initial offers made before the start of the new league year in March, with Mack willing to extend his holdout until the new deal came.
“My whole thought process was how to get Khalil in here,” McKenzie said. “Absolutely, it was here at the end, it was in the final hour that it kind of just hit and it hit hard and heavy. It was not the plan to trade him at all.”
Oakland will get first-round selections in 2019 and 2020, a sixth-rounder next year and a third-rounder in 2020. Oakland also included its second-round selection in 2020 and a conditional fifth-rounder that year.
It’s a steep price but Mack is one of the game’s top defensive players. The move came as a bit of a shock to some of Mack’s former teammates.
Carr tweeted “No way” and added: “#RaiderNation we feel your pain trust me but we need you next Monday night!” Oakland linebacker Bruce Irvin made his feelings clear with a profane post. He later wrote, “What a shock. Now move on and win.. time to beat the Rams!!”
“It’s going to sting with them, as players protecting themselves,” McKenzie said. “That’s the way it should be. They’re going to miss Khalil. I’m going to miss Khalil. We’re all going to miss Khalil. Let’s make that point known now. But we all will move on also.’
Mack is a two-time All-Pro and the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Mack has played in every game for Oakland since being drafted fifth overall in 2014, with 231 primary tackles, 40½ sacks and nine forced fumbles.
Since entering the league, Mack leads all players with 185½ quarterback pressures and ranks second with 68 tackles for loss, according to SportRadar.
But Mack never formed a relationship with new coach Jon Gruden, who left the broadcast booth to return to the sideline for a second stint in Oakland back in January. Mack held out for the entire offseason and preseason instead of playing under the final year of his rookie deal that would have earned him $13.8 million.
Gruden had called Mack Oakland’s best player but decided to go in a different direction rather than give another player a contract worth more than $20 million a year after Carr got a lucrative extension last summer. He then agreed to a six-year, $141 million extension with the Bears that guarantees him $90 million.
“We will pay top dollar,” McKenzie said. “We just couldn’t get around to giving Khalil what he wanted. We will pay top dollar to our top players. We just could not get it worked out for Khalil. That’s just the way it is, the way it went. When it seemed like it was going that way, we seized the opportunity to go ahead and make the trade.”
The move was the biggest on a busy cutdown day that saw the Raiders waive receiver Martavis Bryant just over four months after trading a third-round pick to Pittsburgh for him; acquire backup quarterback AJ McCarron from Buffalo for a 2019 fifth-round pick; deal 2017 seventh-round safety Shalom Luani to Seattle for a 2019 seventh-round pick; and place cornerback Daryl Worley on the suspended list after he got a four-game ban Saturday for violating the NFL’s policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.
Among the other notable players cut were 2015 second-round defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. and 2016 fourth-round quarterback Connor Cook. Edwards’ release means the Raiders now have none of their second-round picks from 2015-17 on the current roster, having previously cut ties with 2016 defensive tackle Jihad Ward and 2017 safety Obi Melifonwu.
The Raiders also got nothing out of the third-round pick dealt to the Steelers for Bryant, who dealt with injuries in training camp and has had several off-field issues in his career.
The other players cut Saturday were receivers Marcell Ateman, Saeed Blacknall and Isaac Whitney; tight ends Marcus Baugh, Pharoah Brown and Paul Butler; running backs James Butler and Ryan Yurachek; linebackers Jason Cabinda, James Cowser and Azeem Victor; defensive backs Jarell Carter, Antwuan Davis, Antonio Hamilton, Dallin Leavitt, Quincy Mauger, Raysean Pringle and Shareece Wright; defensive linemen Connor Flagel, Shakir Soto and Gabe Wright; and offensive linemen Cameron Hunt, Denver Kirkland, Jordan Simmons, Jylan Ware, Oday Aboushi and James Stone.
The Raiders also placed defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from a torn ACL in last season’s finale.
Kicker Eddy Pineiro and running back Chris Warren III were both placed on injured reserve, and cornerback Dexter McDonald was waived with an injury designation.
The Raiders also cut E.J. Manuel after the 53-man roster was finalized to make room for McCarron to be their backup quarterback. Manuel played well in the finale against Seattle on Thursday night, but too many turnovers earlier in the preseason led to the decision to get McCarron instead.