As soon as the Oakland Raiders made it clear they really were willing to trade star pass rusher Khalil Mack, the Jets made a strong push to get him.
It just wasn't strong enough.
The Jets were serious about their interest and made what they believed was a competitive offer over the last few days, according to an NFL source, but the Oakland Raiders instead traded the 27-year-old Mack to the Chicago Bears. The price for Mack was extraordinary, too. The Bears sent their next two first-round picks, a third-rounder in 2020 and a sixth-rounder next year to the Raiders for Mack and a second- and fifth-round pick in 2020.
Then later on Saturday the Bears made Mack the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history by signing him to a six-year, $141 million contract with $90 million guaranteed, according to reports. Mack was hoping to top the market-busting, six-year, $135 million contract that defensive tackle Aaron Donald just signed with the Los Angeles Rams just one day earlier. And he did.
Between the picks and the money, that's an enormous price to pay. But the Jets had the ammunition and the cap room to do it if they wanted. How much did they want him? The specifics of the Jets' offer weren't immediately clear, but it definitely didn't include two first-round picks, according to an NFL source. It's not clear if Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, a champion of building through the draft, was even willing to part with one first-rounder - though it's hard to believe he'd even get the Raiders attention at all without including that in any deal.
The Jets first called about Mack weeks ago, a source said, but at that point it didn't appear that the Raiders were willing to make a deal. The Raiders were convinced, according to a source, that Mack would eventually return and play out the season for his $13.8 million salary, especially since once the regular season started he could be fined up to $814,000 per week.
Just two days ago, an AFC source who had spoken with the Raiders said they were unlikely to deal Mack unless "someone really gets their attention with a crazy offer."
After Donald signed, the Raiders apparently were much more willing to consider offers, and they got the "crazy offer" they wanted.
Mack, of course, would have been exactly what the Jets need on their pass-rush challenged defense. He had 10 ½ sacks last season and had 36 ½ over the last few years. The Jets' pass rush was, of course, miserable last season and they did not sign or draft an edge rusher during the offseason. They hoped someone on their roster would emerge over the summer, but no one did.
So it made sense to make a play for him - at least to a point. The Jets are still in rebuilding mode, and with a rookie quarterback at the helm they're probably at least a couple of years away from really being a contender. Mack would've been a huge piece of their puzzle, but a contender would've been much tougher to build without their next two first-round picks.
They do still have the cap room to add a player like that, though. They've got about $15.8 million this year to use and they are projected to have about $80 million next offseason. So they certainly could try to make a trade for another expensive pass rusher, if any are available.
One big name to watch is Dante Fowler of the Jaguars, since the team didn't exercise the fifth-year option on his contract and it's unclear whether Jacksonville can afford to sign him to a long-term deal. Another option is Denver's Shane Ray, who also had his fifth-year option declined and became expendable when the Broncos drafted Bradley Chubb in the first round.
But the big prize, Mack, is now headed to Chicago. That's a disappointment for the Jets, but at least it seems like they tried.