We’ve got a historical rhetorical for NFL Would You Rather? this week.
Khalil Mack hasn’t been around long enough to be an all-time great for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, but he’s on track to get there. In his first four seasons as a pro, he’s racked up 40.5 sacks, three Pro Bowl invitations, two first-team All-Pro honors, and one AP Defensive Player of the Year award.
So for this exercise, let’s take each player at his peak so far. For Long, that’s the 1983-85 stretch that saw him rack up 35 sacks for a team that won 35 games. For Mack, that’s 2015-16, a stretch that marked his ascent to elite player and ended with DPOY honors. You’re picking one of these two to anchor your defense for the next three seasons. Which do you choose?
The move allows the team to give Kirk Cousins a true WR1 and eliminates the need to take Josh Doctson with that year’s first-round pick. Instead, they pick up a frontline space-eater like Jarran Reed or A’Shawn Robinson at defensive tackle, each a popular mock draft target for the club. That’s enough to push Washington to the playoffs in 2016 and convince the team to build around Kirk Cousins rather than let him walk as a free agent — but that’s a can of worms to open another time.
Pittsburgh never gets the chance to build its three-headed monster of Roethlisberger, Brown, and Le’Veon Bell, though the temptation to pluck Brown away from the Patriots would be high. The Steelers haven’t given out more then $28 million in a contract this decade, so signing him as a free agent would have been difficult.
But that’s not a major problem for the team’s deep receiving corps. While no one player could fill Brown’s shoes at Heinz Field, pass catchers like Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates, Bell, and, eventually, JuJu Smith-Schuster would be able to fill the targets he’d left behind.