ALAMEDA (AP) — Two days after the Oakland Raiders shipped Pro Bowl defensive end Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in a blockbuster deal that sent shock waves throughout the NFL, many of Mack’s former teammates were still trying to come to terms with it.
Quarterback Derek Carr, who heard the news while sitting down to eat breakfast, was stunned. Defensive tackle Justin Ellis called it a bittersweet moment. Others, like linebacker Bruce Irvin and offensive lineman Donald Penn, declined to talk about it.
Carr, who developed a close bond with Mack after the two entered the NFL together as the Raiders’ first two draft picks in 2014, was particularly rattled by the trade.
“It’s not what anybody wanted, I think that’s clear,” Carr said Monday. “But it is what it is, it’s part of the business. It’s one of those sucky things that happen. The hardest part for me is, obviously you lose a good football player, but he’s my brother. That’s one of my best friends.”
Mack, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, was traded to the Bears after skipping the Raiders’ offseason workouts and holding out in training camp for a new contract.
Oakland, which included a second-round pick in 2020 and a conditional fifth-rounder in the deal, received Chicago’s first-round picks in the next two years along with a sixth-round selection in 2019 and a third-round pick in 2020.
Shortly after the trade, Mack signed the richest deal ever given to a defensive player: six years, $141 million, with $90 million guaranteed.
“It was very difficult for us . but it was also like a bittersweet moment for us,” Ellis said. “He got what he wanted and we know it’s a part of the business. A lot of people were texting me and calling me like, ‘Say it ain’t true.’ But it’s true.”
Several players took to social media to express their shock and disbelief after the deal was announced. Carr posted ‘No way’ on Twitter. Irvin had a similar, albeit more colorful, message.
Oakland coach Jon Gruden tried to clear the air when he addressed his team before Monday’s practice as the Raiders prepared for their season opener against the Los Angeles Rams next Monday night.
“We don’t have to like or agree with everything,” Carr said. “We don’t get paid for that. We get paid to come in here, come together as a team and win together. It’s hard because we lost him, but I can promise you we’re going to be ready to play.”
Carr and Mack became quick friends as rookies and spent many hours discussing ways to turn around a franchise that had been mired in chaos for more than a decade. They also talked about winning a Super Bowl together, plans that were scrapped when Mack was abruptly shipped to the Bears.
“When we showed up here we wanted to change the culture and show people what it meant to work, and I think we did that,” Carr said. “I feel good about that. We did change the dynamic of how things are done from the people in the locker room. I believe that 100 percent.
“We won’t be able to win a ring together. That’s the only thing left on our list that won’t happen. I wish him the best, besides when he plays us.”
While attempting to explain the trade to reporters on Sunday, Gruden repeatedly pointed to the $90 million in guaranteed money that the Bears gave Mack and said the Raiders offer wasn’t close to that.
That was particularly difficult for Carr.
During the 2017 offseason the Raiders signed their young quarterback to a five-year, $125 million extension. Right guard Gabe Jackson was also given a hefty raise that same year, while Ellis and wide receiver Seth Roberts signed new deals with Oakland in March.
That left little room for Mack under the salary cap, even though Carr specifically said he structured his contract in order to make it easier for the team to keep Mack.
“That’s what makes it hard,” Carr said. “We all saw it coming. You just hope it can work out. We all did our best to make sure it could, and it just didn’t work out that way.”
Arden Key, Oakland’s third-round pick who is expected to get the majority of playing time in place of Mack, had been hopeful of learning from a player who compiled 40 ½ sacks in his first four NFL seasons.
“I wish I could have been able to play with him,” Key said. “It was very shocking. I thought the deal was going to get done.”
NOTES: The Raiders continued to shake up their roster and signed veteran wide receiver Brandon LaFell. LaFell spent the past two seasons in Cincinnati and had 52 catches for 548 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. Oakland also claimed defensive tackle Brian Price off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys. To clear room, the team waived wide receiver Johnny Holton and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.