In the aftermath of the blockbuster trade that sent elite edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, there have been numerous opinions about whether or not the two sides were right in making the deal. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter, but the overwhelming sentiment is that the Raiders were mistaken to pull the trigger in letting go of such a rare asset, straight in the middle of his prime.
Now that the dust has settled, the word out of Los Angeles appears to suggest that the Rams had also made an offer to acquire the services of Mack. Rams COO Kevin Demoff blatantly said that the team had made an offer to the Raiders, prior to the agreement that ultimately sent him to the Windy City. So what made the Raiders refuse their offer? And what would the Rams look like if they had come to terms with Oakland?
Demoff offered his take on why the Raiders declined the Rams’ offer, saying that the team believed that the Rams’ picks would end up being too low in the draft order, as they would end up having a better record. As a result, despite them offering potentially several first round picks, their eventual value was perceived to be lower. That actually makes a lot of sense, considering just how improved L.A. seems to be heading into the 2018 season.
Meanwhile, the Bears do have some optimism with young and strong-armed quarterback Mitch Trubisky taking the reins under center, but there will certainly be a learning curve. Chicago also happens to play in one of the toughest divisions in the NFC North, with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers always a threat to make a Super Bowl run. The Minnesota Vikings were just one win away from their own Super Bowl appearance, but they fell to the eventual champion Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game. So the path to wins, and an eventual playoff run simply seems much more difficult for the Bears right now, than for the Rams.
But let’s just take a look at the Rams’ roster, and think about what could have been, had they been able to pull off this move. The first thing to consider is just how masterful L.A.’s front office has been at managing their salary cap. In an offseason full of so many great moves made by this franchise, it’s truly amazing that they had the cap space to even be in the conversation for acquiring Khalil Mack. Less than a day before the Mack trade was confirmed with the Bears, the Rams locked up the reigning defensive player of the year, Aaron Donald, to a max contract that had momentarily made him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. That deal was of course exceeded by the Bears’ offer to Mack an amazing one day later.
Had the Rams been able to add Mack to their lineup, their defense would be completely loaded across the board. Their secondary has been completely revamped this offseason, as the team solidified their cornerback spots, by adding two former AFC West standouts, in Denver’s Aqib Talib, and kansas City’s Marcus Peters. Those two should combine to shut down opposing wide receivers, as well as to make the entire secondary much more physical. Talib in particular is a no-nonsense type of football player, who can put a lick on anyone in the league.
We’ve already mentioned Aaron Donald, who mans the defensive line along with another beast in Ndamukong Suh. Had Khalil Mack been added to this unit as well, we could have easily been staring at the best (on-paper) defensive personnel in the NFL. Wade Phillips knows how to get the most out of his players regardless of who’s playing for him, and he will certainly do the same this year. With Mack, he would have had almost too much freedom, to mix and match the players and their respective positions of attack. It would have created nightmares for opposing offenses.
Meanwhile, the Rams’ offense is dramatically improved as well. Ever since Sean McVay came to L.A., the team has shown improvement across the board. McVay played to the strengths of his players, which was clearly evident in the dramatic uptick in Todd Gurley’s performance from his lackluster 2016. He immediately thrived, all the way to become the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year. It’s rare for a team to have both the top offensive and defensive players in the league in a given season, but that’s exactly what happened with the Rams.
And with quarterback Jared Goff getting better each season, there is a real chance that this team takes a major leap forward this year, to become one of the elite squads in the NFL. Goff has plenty of weapons to choose from, including Gurley, who had become a major part of the passing game last season. With second-year receiver Cooper Kupp blossoming into a touchdown scoring weapon, and Robert Woods improving his game substantially from his time in Buffalo, there is a lot to be excited about in Los Angeles right now. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about the team signing the speedy and talented wide receiver Brandin Cooks this offseason, in an effort to create a plethora of choices for the young signal caller in the years to come.
I usually don’t like to dwell in “what if” scenarios. But this is different. Had the Rams actually acquired the services of Khalil Mack, this team would have been nearly impossible to stop.