A number of weeks have now passed since Marlon Mack requested a trade out of Indianapolis. However, there appears to have been little discussion or rumors surrounding a potential trade for Mack since that request became public. Could a trade for Mack be made ahead of the 2021 trade deadline, and if so, which teams might be interested?
Is a Marlon Mack trade on the horizon?
Running backs are always a hot commodity in the NFL. That is why it would be foolish to rule out the potential of Mack being traded ahead of the deadline on November 2. A glance at the NFL’s injured reserve list demonstrates just how volatile the positional landscape is.
The Ravens lost their top-three running backs right before the season. Meanwhile, Seattle, Kansas City, Carolina, Chicago, and San Francisco have all placed their starting back on the IR this year. On top of that, we have seen the likes of Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Saquon Barkley, Melvin Gordon, and Antonio Gibson all on their teams’ respective injury reports in recent weeks.
Mack was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2019 after putting up 908 yards on 195 carries in 2018. Therefore, he carries the potential to be a valuable contributor to a contender down the stretch of the 2020 season.
A trade for Mack would represent a low-risk move for the acquiring team
The beauty of trading for Mack is that his contract comes with no risk. While still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered at the beginning of the 2020 season, Mack re-signed with the Colts on a one-year contract worth $2 million. Additionally, because $1 million of that total came as a signing bonus, the team acquiring Mack would only have to take on what is left of his $1 million base salary in 2021.
The low cost of Mack’s contract negates a lot of the risk that an acquiring team would typically assume in taking on a back coming off an Achilles injury. The unknown with Mack is what workload he can handle following the injury.
In the past three weeks, he has posted just 20 total rushing attempts. That type of workload won’t do anything to prove to potential suitors that he could lead a running game. However, he did show some burst in rushing for 47 yards on 5 carries in Week 5, including a long run of 22 yards.
The cost of trading for Mack could be a potential sticking point. Given his injury and impending free-agent status, the team acquiring Mack will not want to give up more than a late-round draft pick. However, if the Colts are 3-5 or 4-4 heading into the trade deadline, having Mack as a backup to Jonathan Taylor may be more valuable than a late-round draft pick in 2022 or 2023.
Where are Mack’s potential landing spots in a trade?
At this point in the season, the contenders and the stragglers are beginning to separate. Mack is a pending free agent and coming off a significant injury. Thus, he is not a building block piece for a non-contending team. Therefore, we can narrow down the list of potential suitors to those in contention for the playoffs in 2021.
So far, the Ravens have turned to the free-agent market to fill their gaps at running back. However, Latavius Murray is their fourth running back to miss time this year. Baltimore is now leaning on Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell as their veteran backs.
Mack could be a good fit for Baltimore’s offense, given the way they share touches. No one would expect Mack to come in and carry the ball 25 times a game. But he could become an X-factor in a committee with some combination of Bell, Murray, Freeman, and Ty’Son Williams.
Kareem Hunt is on IR, and there is a chance Nick Chubb could miss more time after being sidelined for Thursday Night Football in Week 6. D’Ernest Johnson stepped up and performed well in their absence, but Cleveland’s depth at the running back position is still a concern. If Chubb suffers any kind of setback ahead of the trade deadline, Mack could be a useful option alongside Johnson and Demetric Felton.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire to injured reserve. They are now left with Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon, and Derrick Gore as their active backs. Williams was less than convincing outside of his 2 touchdowns last week, and Mack could immediately improve Kansas City’s offense.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers’ running back depth chart has not been ravaged by injuries. Still, Los Angeles doesn’t have a robust group of runners behind Austin Ekeler. Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, and Larry Rountree III are adequate options to spell Ekeler. But if he were to go down for a significant period of time, the Chargers may need to turn a veteran.
Acquiring Mack would be a smart move for the Chargers in many ways. However, one of the reasons Mack is unsettled in Indianapolis is that he is not at the top of the depth chart. He would initially have to accept being second fiddle to Ekeler, with his only chance of significant work coming if Ekeler were to get hurt.
Washington Football Team
The injury concerns for Antonio Gibson could potentially put Washington in play for Mack. If Gibson’s injury progresses, WFT would be looking at J.D. McKissic and Jaret Patterson as fill-in options.
A trade for Mack would add some much-needed depth and potentially allow Washington to place Gibson on IR. That would enable his shin stress fracture to heal without leaving the team without a clear starting RB.