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Murphy: Packers were 'aggressive' in trying to sign Khalil Mack last summer

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Murphy: Packers were 'aggressive' in trying to sign Khalil Mack last summer

-- The Green Bay Packers certainly had interest in acquiring All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack last summer, but 2018 record projections ultimately foiled their plans.

Team President and CEO Mark Murphy told The FAN's Gary Ellerson this week that the Oakland Raiders' decision to shop Mack came down to predicting who would be able to offer higher draft compensation between the Packers and Chicago Bears.

"Well, the whole Khalil Mack thing. It's not that we didn't try," Murphy said. "We were aggressive. We wanted to sign him. I think, ironically, the Raiders took the Bears offer because they thought they would be a better draft pick."

The Wisconsin State Journal's Jason Wilde noted in September that the Packers made an offer to the Raiders, but not one that included both of the first-round picks they held in 2019. Instead, they reportedly offered one of the first-rounders with an abundance of other picks.

The Bears did end up obtaining Mack, sending over a pair of first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a 2019 sixth and a 2020 third-rounder. The No. 24 overall pick in April's draft became Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, who is expected to start in the Raiders' backfield.

The Raiders' strategy backfired, however. The Bears finished atop the NFC North with a 12-4 record while the Packers finished third at 6-9-1 and entered the draft with the No. 12 overall selection.

With a healthy Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback, it looked as if the Packers were ready to resume their winning ways after his collarbone injury the year prior. But Rodgers suffered a tibial plateau fracture and MCL sprain in his knee in the team's season opener against the Bears; the aftermath lingered throughout the remainder of the season.

Shortly after landing Mack, the Bears inked him to a six-year deal worth up to $141 million dollars with $90 million guaranteed. It was a deal that made him the highest-paid defensive player in league history.

The Packers, meanwhile, took care of their own franchise cornerstone prior to the start of the season. They inked Rodgers to a four-year extension worth $134 million with a signing bonus checking in at $57.5 million. This would've made getting a deal done for Mack -- at the numbers he wanted -- relatively difficult and put a strain on the Packers' salary cap.

"I don't know if it is good to have the highest-paid offensive player in the league and the highest-paid defensive player in the league," Murphy said. "Is that a good way to build a team?"

Missing out on Mack didn't result in the Packers lacking pass rushers. It was a point of emphasis for general manager Brian Gutekunst this past offseason after the departure of Clay Matthews and the release of Nick Perry -- two household names in Green Bay for the last several years.

The Packers hit the free agency market in search of remodeling the outside linebacker position, signing both Za'Darius and Preston Smith to hefty deals that provides very little impact on the team's cap in the first year. The Packers also selected Michigan's Rashan Gary with the previously mentioned No. 12 overall pick. 


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (45) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

It certainly meant they didn't have any outside pass rushers last season. Gute fixed it for this year, but the waves of good pass rushers we have still isn't the same as having one dominant one. We are hoping that Za'Darius and/or Rashan turn into a Mack, but the odds are not good on that front: All Pro players are (by definition) hard to find.

Salary cap be damned, I want one more Lombardi (at least) before ARod hangs 'em up. One year later, and I'm still sad we didn't land Mack. Having him land in the division was a real nut-punch. And, ironically, the Bears drastically shortened their window of competitiveness with Mack. We're all in for a short window - they (were) young and cheap. Mitch is not good, and won't be good. And by the time they figure that out and try to re-sign him to a middling QB contract, Mack will be over 30 and still frigging expensive. Not to mention Smith, Hicks, Goldman, ARob, Jackson...

Screw the Bears.

Coldworld's picture

I agree with most of your analysis, but not with your wish that we had succeeded. As you note, the two rosters were in a very different position from a cap perspective but I would also say from a depth of talent perspective.

One star would, in my opinion, have not got us to the point we needed to be at. Given the cap and pick impact I think it would have led to us being less strong over the next three years. For that reason, no disrespect to Mack, I am relieved that we did not succeed.

Bearmeat's picture

Coldworld, that is certainly possible. We're going to find out this year. How much of that mess in 2018 was personnel, and how much was just a dysfunctional team with a checked-out coaching staff? By his actions, it seems Gute certainly agrees with you on the defensive side of the ball, but not the offensive side.

But I would counter with this: How much is the Smith Bros combined value of their contracts? Almost, but not quite to the level of Mack's, right? Would you rather have one Mack, or two Smith's and Gary, along with perhaps next year's 2nd, Sternberger, and a bunch of 3rd day picks?

I think that would be a tough pill to swallow, and I'm entirely making up the actual picks (outside of Gary of course), but that's probably close to what was on the table for Mack from Gute.

It's close IMO.

Coldworld's picture

Bear, I take your point on contract amount, though let’s not also forget the draft picks surrendered as well. I think the difference is depth. We lacked it. I therefore think that we did need the picks and the two players not one. I see our roster as having declined to a point where the whole pipeline needed to be restocked for the future and we needed an influx of individuals to replace past mistakes while the pipeline is repaired.

Bearmeat's picture

Yes, the conversation is depth. Mack vs. Depth. And of course, it's irrelevant because Jon Gruden is a moron and made the decision for us.

I guess where we diverge is that depth piece. I am of the opinion that you need to have some luck to win it all, no matter how good you are. Front line talent wins. We have better depth now. I'd argue better than the Bears do.

Do we have the front line talent? Yet to be determined. If the Smith Bros/Gary et al make a jump, we are better off. If they're just red chip starters (as they have been), I'd argue we would have been better off with a true top end blue chipper like Mack.

Like I said though, an argument on semantics. GPG.

dobber's picture

"As you note, the two rosters were in a very different position from a cap perspective but I would also say from a depth of talent perspective."

Part of this also needs to be taken in the big picture of what was going on in Chicago: last off-season was Ryan Pace swinging for the fences to save his job. He'd botched the John Fox thing and was alienating ownership.

So he spends big to bring in pieces to jump-start the offense (ARob, Gabriel, Burton) around a QB that was a PR problem when he drafted him, and then trades away the ability to add cheap talent through the draft by bringing in Mack and signs away his ability to fill roster holes easily by signing him to a big deal that puts them tight against the cap. The Bears are on a 3-year clock to win the whole thing, because in that time frame, they'll have to make hard decisions on re-signing key starters on both sides of the ball, and they'll need to pay Trubisky. They either win it and Pace looks pretty smart, or the wheels fall off trying and he's on the street in 2021.

Bearmeat's picture


fthisJack's picture

he's out by 2021....he just signed the fabulous HHCD to replace Amos. Haha. i can't wait to see Rodgers attack him in coverage.

Guam's picture

I am delighted we did not get Mack. He is a force, but the price was just too high. Effectively it is Mack versus the Smiths plus Gary plus Savage. I will take two good players plus two draft choices with significant potential versus one great player. The Packers would have had too many holes and not enough draft choices or free agent capacity to fill them had they landed Mack.

I also concur with the current wisdom that this deal will come back to haunt the Bears in the next couple of years when Trubisky gets a full price contract.

Go Pack Go!

Bearmeat's picture

Apparently, we did not offer 2 #1s. So it would have been +Gary OR +Savage. Not both.

Coldworld's picture

They did, so we likely would have had to if we were to win, if you look at the hypothetical that way. Either way, it doesn’t alter the merits of the discussion in my view.

Guam's picture

It apparently would have taken both to swing the deal since the Bears gave up two #1's. I was projecting what the Packers would have had to give up to actually get Mack as opposed to swing and miss.

fthisJack's picture

Oakland was thinking the Bears would have the higher first round picks. so for the Packers to swing it, they would have to have sweetened the pot with more and higher draft picks. it would have set them back 5 years.

Savage57's picture

The Packers had an outside pass rusher who tied for 16th in the league in sacks, finished with two fewer than Mack.

But because his name's Kyler Fackrell, he doesn't exist.

Coldworld's picture

Fackrell is a completely different proposition to Mack. He is physically completely different and his skill set is narrower.

Mack is a wrecking ball who forces teams to alter their play and who produces far more disruption than sacks and thus wider impact by far.

Fackrell is a situational rusher who produces no pressures but last year 10 sacks. How does that happen? By being schemed open and only rushing when that intent is schemed for. Unless you are arguing that Fackrell is a physical behemoth there is no other explanation.

Fackrell’s value is likely greatest in coverage from a coordinator’s perspective. He is a useful player with a distinct role after last year, but a comparative to Mack? No.

Bearmeat's picture

...or that he got statistically lucky and will regress regardless of how he'd have been schemed this year... ;)

Guam's picture

Well said Coldworld. Fackrell will be a useful component in our defense, but he is no where near Mack despite his 10 sacks last year. Classic case of statistics not telling the whole story.

marpag1's picture

"Fackrell ... produces no pressures but last year 10 sacks."

Exactly. His pressure to sack ratio was bizarrely unbalanced. The only way he could possibly sustain his sack numbers is if Clark, Daniels and the Smiths suck up all the attention and leave Fackell with an easy (or at least easier) road.

t-wrecks's picture

I'm gonna laugh (and be sad) if Fackrell leads the team in sacks again this season haha

dobber's picture

It could very well happen. I think Gary and Z. Smith play with their hand on the ground on passing downs quite a bit and Fackrell rotates in to play on the outside. I think he sees a lot of snaps on obvious passing downs.

Nick Perry's picture

Excellent point but I also think Gary is going to see more and more time as the season progesses just because of his production...

Maybe it's just the "Packers Glasses" are on too tight again but I have a feeling this early about Gary. I wouldn't be shocked to see him get 8, 9, even 10 sacks as a rookie. The guy is so damn athletic so as long as the shoulder doesn't become an issue, he could be in the mix for some decent sack numbers.

Pettine will have so many options this year at his disposal. He'll be able to put 4 pass rushers on the field at any given time, get pressure, and drop 7. For example, Clark and Z Smith inside and P Smith and Gary outside or any combination of those 4 ...That will be 4-some I'll be anxiously waiting to see.

Old School's picture

I agree with you Savage57. The Bears has 50 sacks. The Packers had 42.

Everybody agrees Mack is awesome, but if he had been on the Packers last year we wouldn’t have been that much better as a TEAM.

dobber's picture

Chicago forced 22 TOs in 2017. They forced 36 in 2018. Maybe the sacks weren't dramatically different but the TOs were. Packers forced 15 TOs in 2018...I suspect that number increases meaningfully if they have a dominating outside rusher like Mack. Enough to make a meaningful difference? Hard to say...but there were 5 games lost by a TD or less and quite a few more were tight into the 4th qtr.

Old School's picture

I get your point, Dobber. In my opinion, the majority of turnovers are a function of coverage more so than pressure.

Oakland went from 28 to 24. So his presence improved Chicago by 14 but only weakened Oakland by 4?

Look....I agree that pressure can force more poor decisions by a QB, but unless the guy is covered .......

I’d also point to Aaron Rodgers two interceptions last year. If pressure creates turnovers, then you’re surely not saying Rodgers was not under Pressure?

And it wasn’t just Rodgers. Several of the better QBs had very low interceptionrates. Half the starters in the league are throwing less than 2 interceptions per hundred (Rodgers is the career leader at 1.5%)

I think if you take a hard look at the numbers over the last 15-20 years, you’re going to see rising completion rates and decreasing interception rates throughout the league. I’m not sure how that supports the “pressure “ narrative.

Handsback's picture

Getting Mack would have made the Packers a good team....but not a great team. Playoffs? Maybe. The lack of draft picks and cap issues would have put Green Bay's talent acquisition into salary cap Siberia. I think Gutsy did the right thing in grabbing two good OLBs and drafting another w/ superstar capability then going all in for one guy. Let's not forget a potential safety star in Savage as well.

stockholder's picture

I like being aggressive. Had they signed him. Goodbye 4 new free Agents. And Some draft picks. I like the changes. Mack would not have been worth it.

Nick Perry's picture

For myself personally as a Packers fan I'm happy as hell the Packers didn't land Mack. He'll be 29 years old next season when the Bears have to start paying him $26.6 million a season. What's the kicker in this for me at least is the Bears can't even think about cutting Mack until 2022 when the dead money is only $12 million.

In the meantime, the Packers will STILL be in the middle of the rookie contracts for those rookies. Because of this, they were able to sign a Safety FROM the Bears, two OLB'ers, and an O-Lineman who is praised by Rodgers every chance he gets. Again personally for the Packers, I think getting the Smiths, Amos, and Turner is MUCH better for the Packers this year and ESPECIALLY the years to follow than signing Mack and giving up all those picks.

The Bears have given up a lot of draft capital the last few years drafting Trubisky and trading for Mack. The first-round draft picks with that 5th-year option are VITAL in building a championship football team IMO.

The Bears will be back to their standard 3rd or 4th place finish possibly this year or next for sure I'd imagine, while OUR Packers are back as a top NFC candidate for the SB.

SO...IMO the Packers WON the Mack sweepstakes without signing him.

Samson's picture

Good post. -- Originally I wanted Mack but after his price (draft picks & contract) became public, GB actually dodged a bullet. -- The Smiths, Gary, Amos & Savage will more than make up for the non-signing of Mack --- for years to come.

Holecrap's picture

Aggressive and ponying up to the bar are two distinct things.
We all have seen that top FA's wont even talk to the packers and arent on their list. After Ted T, word has spread at least through the agents that GB plays cheap ball with the exception of one person.
How many decent players in the past five years did we let go because we didnt pay them enough.

sonomaca's picture

Wait. Mack directly contributed on the play which caused the Rodgers injury. He helped ruin the season in the first quarter of the first game.

Since '61's picture

The price for Mack was too high. I'm much happier with our 4 FA signings and our top 3 draft picks. We possibly have 7 starting players versus one and we won't be in cap hell. Plus, except for the QB, the NFL is a young man's game. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

Tarynfor12's picture

Most here are saying the price for Mack was too high but sound as though Mack is a Packer and were not getting our money's worth ala Perry . He's a Bear and any thought of him is gone until GB meets them on the field.

As to the Smith's, Gary and whether Fackrell is schematically useful for Petine etc, we'll see soon enough along with the other pieces bringing praised before the first snap of preseason much less when it counts.

19 days and reality begins to shine and the future revealed slowly.

Coldworld's picture

Not at all. Mack is a known commodity. The discussion is over whether it would have served the Packers better to have succeeded in signing him last year at a price equivalent to that paid by the Bears or to have had the options available this off season and in future drafts as it has turned out.

Tarynfor12's picture

The question that should be asked is whether Mack would have made a difference on a team that was dysfunctional as GB was, at the time the decision to pursue him was made. Would he make have made a significant difference like making the playoffs, which is the standard of success for some, or would that trade actually put GB behind the eight ball more so than where the Bears many claim them to be sooner, by relinquishing the ability to make any of the FA signings Smith's, and draft picks that obviously wouldn't be here in camp now.
One player can make a difference but he can't make a difference on a team as dysfunctional as the Packers were at the trade deadline.
Mack would have been awesome in GB but I believe more in the depth that appears on the roster now than what we wouldn't have had we signed Mack.

Coldworld's picture

That question was asked and has been discussed above, it seems you are agreeing with the majority, myself included.

Samson's picture


Thegreatreynoldo's picture

The Chicago price would have been Gary and Hollman, plus a first and a 3rd in 2020 partially offset by getting a 2nd from Oakland (probably in the forties since I suspect Oakland continues to stink under Gruden). GB also loses CM3 to keep the cap price neutral in 2018. Of course, the "Chicago Price" wasn't quite enough for Oakland. Gruden likes veterans: GB could have shipped HHCD to Oakland with my blessings at the time in lieu of the 2019 3rd.

Gute still signs one of the Smiths but not both had he gotten Mack. Gute can still sign Amos. Gute can probably still sign Turner if he is willing to have a cap crunch in 2020. He probably can foresee cutting Graham or perhaps Gute considers trading Daniels this year to save $8.1M and gain a 4th or so.

It really doesn't matter. Mack would not have made GB enough better to offset a McCarthy offense that ranked 14th in points, though one can wonder what would have been had AR, Allison, and Cobb remained healthy. After all, Mack caused the AR injury.

PackfanNY's picture

Not sure why the obsession with Mack. Sounds like Gute tried and either price was too high and/or Bears offer was better at least according to Raiders. In retrospect Pack had a lot of holes and Looking back surrendering draft pick capital and salary cap room probably would have really killed the ability to try and fill those holes.
Bottom line reality is that we need Rodgers to stay healthy and on the field to win. We don’t have a reliable backup QB and all the defense in the world could fix that hole if QB12 is injured.

Mojo's picture

This is a topic that lends itself to some TGR analysis. That is, if the Pack had signed Mack to a similar contract to the Bears, what would they have had left over, if anything, to sign anyone else. And what would be the impact further down the road.

I'm in agreement with the majority here, signing Mack would have been way to expensive in terms of cap and opportunity cost. Going all in with one guy in a league where everyone get injuries is a gamble I'm not willing to take.

This was a team bereft of talent. I believe they've taken proper steps in filling the many holes apparent from last year. Still work to do, but Mack over everything else they would have had to give up wouldn't have made them a SB contender. Not even close.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I commented above on this. Signing Mack meant dumping CM3, but GB would have been down $2.5M on the cap. There would have been no Rashaan Gary ($2.86M) so up by $300K, net. Mack's cap was scheduled to be $22.3M in 2019. Ouch, but Chicago converted 2019 salary to a signing bonus to reduce it to $11.9M.

Option 1 - Leaving it at $22.3M:

= losing one Smith and Amos or both Smiths plus more. Still $800K short and GB needs more for PS and the last two roster spots, so, have to also lose Crosby or not sign Turner in the first place. Of course, the option could be to lose one Smith and Graham (done back in March), and something more, perhaps Kizer/Spriggs and taking cap into account at cutdown time.

Option 2 - Reducing it to $11.9M

= losing Turner or Crosby, but some minor players as well to pay for the PS and 52nd and 53rd roster spots when the Rule of 51 ends in September. Kizer and Spriggs might do it. That would be very tight. Either of the Smiths or Amos alone would be enough with a bit to spare.

2020: Mack's cap would be $24M under option 1 or $26.6M under option 2. That's ugly. GB is projected to have $13.7M in cap space for 2020 (plus it would have the $3.6M currently assigned to Gary), so the Packers would need a minimum of $6.7M to $9.6M. If GB had previously decided not to sign ZaDarius in the first place, GB would have $10.95M to $7.95M in space to sign Martinez, extend Clark, maybe sign Lowry-Allison-Fackrell, etc. That's probably not quite enough for Clark and Martinez, so someone else would have to go, possibly Graham in 2020, Daniels/Bulaga in 2019, or converting about $10M of AR's roster bonus to a signing bonus. AR plus one of the aforementioned options would be enough to sign Martinez, Clark, maybe another depending upon whom it is.

Not having signed Turner saves $7.6M, so lots of problems and Crosby doesn't help in 2020. GB would probably have to convert about $10M of AR's roster bonus to a signing bonus which would allow them to keep Clark but probably have to lose Martinez. Too many moving parts to consider 2020 thoroughly.

Jack Vainisi's picture

In retrospect it worked out best for the Packers. Their underlying premise for getting involved almost had to be that Mack would elevate them to serious playoff contention. That would have been a major mistake overall in evaluation, even though it wasn't until the 2018 season revealed a lot more about the roster deficiencies. In almost all cases, it's a substantial risk to give up too much draft capital, much less salary cap, to shore up one of 22 positions unless you're pretty sure your roster really has only one major néed.

Coach JV's picture

I was all for the Mack deal at the time... but in retrospect, it would have killed us for years because we wouldn't be able to afford to put players around him and Rodgers both.

I like what Gute did this year... bringing in players who are still young and on the rise, while being just veteran enough to have fewer growing pains.

Our D will dominate this year I think... maybe not one individual player being feared, but an entire defense that can send anyone after you from out of nowhere... a game planner's nightmare...

Here's to a season of 3 and outs... (for our D)...

Qoojo's picture

Last year, I thought the packers were just on the edge, and that Mack might be the missing piece to get them over the hump defensively as a good pass rush solves a lot of backfield woes.

Now using hindsight, given the offensive performance of last year exposing just how bankrupt of talent they are on offense, things worked out for the best. Packers were able to jettison MM, get more defensive depth, and not bankrupt themselves in the future. If you look at next year, there's going to be some uncomfortable decisions made in regard to the salary cap and who to let go.

Whether MLF was the right guy, or packers just hopping on the popularity bus, we will find out in the next year or two.

flackcatcher's picture

I thought the Packers could be a playoff team at the beginning of last season. It all depended on the depth of 53, and how good the top line talent was. In that view signing Mack was a coin flip. I figure GM Gute would look, but walk away giving the Rodgers signing and the lack of depth on defense. This was Gute's call considering the roster, not (thank goodness) Murphy's. Like Dom Capers, Mike McCarthy became a easy target for fan ire over the slow degrading of the team since 2016 NFC champ game. Last year exposed the lack of talent behind the starters, so Gute made the right decision to keep and stock as many draft choices as possible. Despite the happy talk, Aaron Rodgers attitude and ego must be a real concern among the brain trust at 1265. Yes it was time for Mike McCarthy to go, his relationship with both Rodgers and Murphy had become toxic and he was expendable with his expiring contract. And to put it bluntly, he was burnt out from dealing with the fallout from the lack of an active GM and a meddling 'owner' in player personal decisions. Not fair to the man, but to start to clean house, he had to go. Overall, I do agree. This is IAMGUTE and MLF team now. How this plays out is up to them.

Qoojo's picture

I do agree that MM was frustrated with TT, and worn out using nothing but UDFAs at the end of the season. But he still kept Capers way too long, season after season of defensive failure. Then the special teams were a perennial let down.

The Rodgers and MM drama I do not know what to think. These HoF QBs start to get old, like Favre as well, and they start to feel like special snowflakes. I am worried that MLF is too young and too nice to control Rodgers like a normal player. It will be like when Ray Rhodes, who I thought was in awe of Favre, was the coach and let Favre do anything he wanted. Given that Rodgers protects the ball better, it probably won't be as bad as that season. But I can definitely see Rodgers not respecting MLF as a coach due to the special snowflake factor.

It's concerning, and we will see how it works out this season.

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