The Cleveland Browns are potentially one of several teams engaged in trade talks with the Oakland Raiders to land current hold-out pass rusher Khalil Mack. And they might be one of the only teams in the league with the cap room and bravado to pull it off.
On Friday the Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot reported the Browns were expected to inquire about Mack’s availability given the dilemma Mack has created for the Raiders. Mack continues to hold out, seeking a new contract extension as the start of the NFL season looms next weekend. He’s currently playing the final season on his rookie deal, of which he will earn roughly $13.8 million. Not only has Mack averaged double-digits sacks during in each of his four NFL seasons, but he’s also regarded as one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the game.
Later on Friday NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said the chance Mack gets traded is “very real.” Rapoport described the market for Mack as “robust” and said the Raiders are “gauging and listening” to offers.
Earlier in the week NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the existence of ongoing trade talks for Mack, but he doubted they would come to fruition because teams believe the Raiders are looking for two first round picks in exchange for their prized defensive end.
The #Raiders have received a bunch of calls in recent days about trading Khalil Mack, but other teams have gotten the impression the price would be at least two first-round picks. No sense they‘re motivated to do a deal. @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/OUsqtMQyKu— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 29, 2018
It’s possible that report made new Browns general manager John Dorsey’s ears perk up enough to consider making a run at the standout defensive end.
The Browns would essentially end up giving up two premium picks, and then be saddled with what would surely be a new record-setting contract in order to keep Mack in Cleveland. On Friday, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald became the highest paid defender in the league when he signed a six-year, $135 million extension, $87 million of which is guaranteed.
While the Browns currently have roughly $58 million in cap space, it’s hard to see them giving up so much cap space along with the requisite draft capital it will take to get a deal done.
But don’t count the Browns out by any means. Dorsey could get creative by including players in the deal to sweeten the pot. Plus, the prospect of having Myles Garrett and Mack playing opposite one another might be too enticing for him to pass up. The Browns have been so bad for so long, and the desire to win and win now is so great in Berea, that there may be a real possibility of something materializing quickly in the coming days.
Although the price is steep, the Mack and Garret combo would provide the Browns with the best pass rush, at least on paper, that the NFL has seen in quite some time.
Remember, as Cabot pointed out, Dorsey worked with Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie in Green Bay, so they may very well have a good enough working relationship to make progress on a solution that would satisfy both sides.