As training camps open around the NFL this week, some of the most notable stories are about which players are staying away from camp for one reason or another. One such player is Oakland Raiders pass-rusher Khalil Mack.
Mack is entering the fifth-year option season of his rookie contract, which is set to pay him $13.8 million in 2018. He has stayed away from the team throughout the offseason and apparently does not plan to report until he gets a new contract that provides him some long-term security and pays him at a level that is commensurate with his on-field impact.
But Mack isn't just not showing up to camp; apparently, he has not even talked to new coach Jon Gruden since Gruden took the job (for 10 years and $100 million) in January.
Interesting fact of day: Jon Gruden and Oakland DE Khalil Mack have not spoken once since the Raiders hired their new head coach in January. No contact between two men who should be vital this season for the Raiders.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 26, 2018
Gruden's work this offseason has been criticized in several circles -- including here -- because he has repeatedly signed older players (Doug Martin, Jordy Nelson, Derrick Johnson), insisted he wants to return football to 1998 (signing two blocking tight ends and a fullback), and continually been dismissive of analytics; but not finding a way to communicate at all with his best player in the six months since taking the job may be the biggest indication yet that things are not going the right way in Oakland ahead of Gruden's first season back with the organization.
The Raiders have approximately $5.7 million worth of room under the cap at this moment, according to Spotrac, so they have more than enough space to offer Mack an extension if they so choose -- especially considering most teams structure extensions such that they lower the player's cap hit in the first season of the deal in order to provide more breathing room. Mack is headed into his age-27 season and should theoretically be hitting his physical prime over the next few years.
He is one of the best defensive players in football and Gruden has said several times that one of the main reasons he took the job in Oakland in the first place was the chance to coach Mack. And yet, they have not even spoken in over six months, and Mack has not been near the team at all throughout the offseason. That's not great, folks.