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Khalil Mack trade raises pressure on both Bears, Raiders

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On the surface, you can draw some parallels between the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders, the two teams that came together to execute a whopper of a trade of Khalil Mack early Saturday morning.

Both have young quarterbacks. Both have new, offense-minded coaches. Both have undergone massive roster makeovers this summer. Both have a taste for risk.

And that's where the similarities end, because the Bears and Raiders now seem destined to head in opposite directions.

The Bears, with their blockbuster acquisition of Mack, a second-round draft pick and a conditional fifth-rounder in exchange for two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a sixth-rounder, just added a top-five defensive talent to a top-10 defense after loading up on offensive talent to surrounded second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky. If they are not exactly in win-now mode, they are on the win-very-soon timeline, following the blueprint that a title push and the high-stakes moves often required are most easily executed when a team has the franchise quarterback under a relatively cheap rookie contract -- see the Philadelphia Eagles.

It is a huge gamble for general manager Ryan Pace, to give up two first-round picks -- put on your accountant's hat and view those as two fixed, very affordable contracts, the kind that allow salary caps to be easily managed -- and it means there is absolutely no room for Mack to be anything less than the stud he has already been. Trubisky has one of those contracts right now, and his reasonable paycheck is why the Bears could afford to hand Mack a quarterback-like six-year, $141 million extension. The Bears' belief that they won't need to use a first-round pick in the near future to land a franchise quarterback is why they were comfortable parting with those two picks. In short, Pace's assessment of Trubisky is an even bigger bet than his assessment of Mack. Both had better be right.

Still, finding a player like Mack -- the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, who will slide seamlessly into Vic Fangio's defense -- is precisely why teams jealously protect their first-round picks. The Bears, trapped in the NFC North with Aaron Rodgers, have long been in search of a dominant pass rusher. What are the chances those picks would have turned into a player as impactful as Mack is likely to be with the Bears? Not that great.

Which is probably something Jon Gruden should have been reminded of before he sent Mack away. The Raiders had already given a huge contract to quarterback Derek Carr, who came in the same miraculous 2014 draft class as Mack, tying their hands to some degree about how much they were philosophically willing to commit to just two players. But the deal speaks loudly about the direction Gruden, secure with his own 10-year deal, will take his new team. It is rebuilding -- what else is there to deduce when a team moves its best player while that player is just 27 years old, after barely having contact about a new contract?

That Gruden apparently wants to go forward with older players -- hello, Jordy Nelson! -- is counterintuitive, to say the least. That he wants to do it without one of the premier pass rushers in the league is simply ridiculous. The Raiders' defense ranked 23rd last season and was 26th in pass defense with Mack, and the Raiders have clearly made the calculation that they simply need more players to be appreciably better -- more players paid with money that won't need to go toward a record-breaking contract for Mack.

That's fine, and they got an enormous, impressive haul in return for Mack (although the inclusion of a second-round pick with Mack stands out as a troubling detail). It will only be really impressive if they nail those picks, and even the best drafters in history don't get anywhere close to getting it all right. The chances that either of those picks turns into a player as good as Mack are even slimmer. That does not bode well for the future, as interesting as next year's draft night will be.

Worse is the immediate reality. The Raiders are a less talented team now than they were last week, and Gruden, after 10 years out of the league, just sent a strong, unattractive, signal about how he'll do business: The Raiders either can't or won't pay for elite players. Imagine how that will go over in the Raiders' locker room. Thanks to Bruce Irvin's tweet -- "No (expletive) way" -- we don't have to imagine. Carr himself chimed in with his own version of a "No way" tweet, though both he and Irvin proceeded to express a desire to win with the Raiders.

Later in the day, the Raiders continued with their confounding plan -- there is a plan, right? -- when they traded a fifth-round pick for quarterback AJ McCarron. The lack of coherence is startling. The Raiders added veterans this offseason, apparently geared toward winning soon. Then they got rid of Mack for draft picks whose value will not be realized -- if those picks land -- for several years. And they traded another draft pick to get a backup quarterback who doesn't seem appreciably better than EJ Manuel -- in fact, McCarron failed to win a job in Buffalo even though the Bills signed him with the idea that he could start. Finally, Oakland released Martavis Bryant, for whom they'd sent the Steelers a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and who is now facing a suspension. Go figure.

The Oakland fan base, already being asked to embrace a team for two more years that already has one foot out the door, is unlikely to be thrilled. One thing we've learned from the relocations of the Rams and Chargers to Los Angeles: the Raiders had better bring the big-name talent and playoff-contending team if they expect to draw immediate fan support in Las Vegas in 2020.

That is something the Bears won't have to worry about. On the midway, the monsters have been reborn, swiping much more than just the Raiders' best player. They also stole something that should chill the Raiders even longer: their commitment to excellence.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.

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