ALAMEDA — When the Raiders took the field for their first team session Tuesday at their mandatory mini-camp, Tank Carradine lined up as the starting left end.
That made it official. Khalil Mack is a holdout.
It’s likely to continue through the rest of the camp, perhaps even to training camp, although coach Jon Gruden is hoping that’s not the case.
“One of the big reasons I came here is to coach that man,” Gruden said. “But I don’t want to speculate. There’s a lot of guys in the league, several players that are in a situation. We’re trying to resolve it as soon as possible and in the meantime coach the players that are here.”
Raiders players, many of whom could find themselves in their own contract situations, weren’t about to judge Mack’s decision.
Guard Kelechi Osemele said he’s been too busy to give Mack much thought.
“I’m sure he’s doing what he needs to do to be ready,” Osemele said. “Right now, it’s next man up until he gets back. He’s a great player. In my opinion, yes, we need to do whatever we can to get him back. He’s a phenomenal guy, you don’t come across talent like that.
“But we really haven’t been letting it affect our preparation day in and day out.”
Safety Karl Joseph said defensive players can’t help but notice Mack not being there, but said “we know what he’s doing and we respect it . . . when he’s ready to come back, we’ll be ready for him. You can’t replace a guy like that.”
As Gruden noted, it’s not like Mack is all by his lonesome when it comes to player holdouts.
Mack is most closely tied to the contract status of defensive tackle Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, who won’t be participating in the mandatory camp.
But others are sitting out as well. Tennessee offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, Seattle safety Earl Thomas, and Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones are obtaining to use the mandatory camp as leverage to better their contract situations.
Mack, Donald and Lewan are playing for teams which picked up their fifth-year options. Mack is scheduled to make $13.8 million, Donald $6.9 million and Lewan $9.3 million.
NFL players operate in a system where salaries are almost never guaranteed beyond bonus payments.
The risk for Mack and others due big contracts is considerable. As sizable as Mack’s salary would be under the fifth year option, it’s dwarfed by guaranteed money available under an extension.
The baseline for Mack’s deal is Denver’s Von Miller, who is working under a six-year, $114 million contract with $70 million guaranteed.
If Mack were to practice in minicamp and be injured without an extension, it would put that kind of money in jeopardy.
So Mack and others are applying the only leverage they have — withholding their services.
For complete Oakland Raiders coverage follow us on Flipboard.Raiders left tackle Donald Penn held out during training camp last season, not joining the team until it had left Napa and was back at the facility. He eventually got a raise and an extension.
Contracts the size of the one Mack is seeking take time. The five-year, $125 million deal signed by quarterback Derek Carr didn’t wasn’t completed until last June 22.
Being the quarterback, one that was coming off a broken fibula and with a new offensive coordinator in Todd Downing, it didn’t make sense for Carr to stay away.
It’s a different story with Mack a defensive end, who could likely sit out well into training camp before signing or deciding to play for his fifth-year option, and have no ill effects.
It takes far less time and preparation for a defensive lineman to raise havoc than it does for a quarterback to orchestrate an offense.
Donald stayed away until Sept. 9 a year ago, reporting so late the Rams sat him out the first game of the season. Despite the missed time, Donald recorded 11 sacks, forced five fumbles and succeed Mack as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also sat out the Rams’ final game as they rested players for the playoffs.
At the Raiders’ pre-draft press conference, general manager Reggie McKenzie declined to characterize Donald’s contract situation as having anything to do with that of Mack.
“We look at Khalil at his own situation,” McKenzie said. “We’re not looking at anybody else. We’re just focusing on our guy.”
The Raiders are within their rights to fine Mack for missing mandatory sessions, and missing the three-day camp could cost $84,000.
More likely, those fines go away once a deal is reached or are not pursued simply to get the Mack into camp if the impasse goes into late July.
Whatever the Raiders strategy is regarding Mack, Gruden wasn’t discussing player contracts with the media.
“I’m not going to get into what we’re going to do,” Gruden said. “That’s our business, honestly, and we’ll deal with it accordingly. We’re hoping to get the man signed and I’ll leave it at that.”
Source: East Bay For time being, Raiders move ahead without Khalil Mack