Raiders exercise fifth-year option on star defender Khalil Mack

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders are making a commitment to one of the NFL’s best players.

Menacing pass rusher Khalil Mack had his fifth-year contract option exercised by Oakland on Thursday, presumably keeping him with the team through the 2018 season.

The AP Defensive Player of the Year for 2016, Mack had sacks in eight straight games during one stretch last season and finished with 11 — the All-Pro edge rusher’s presence such that opponents sent multiple blockers his way but still didn’t stop one of the NFL’s elite defenders. He was part of 73 tackles, had his first career interception and touchdown, and forced five fumbles while recovering three.

And he did it all for a defense ranked 26th overall.

The 26-year-old Mack won last year’s AP award for top defender by beating out 2016 Super Bowl MVP Von Miller of Denver by one vote. A first-round draft pick, selected fifth overall out of Buffalo in 2014, Mack quickly emerged among the league’s elite in his third NFL season.

The Raiders, whose move to Las Vegas was approved by owners last month, returned to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years and hope to build on a 12-4 season under coach Jack Del Rio as a projected AFC power again. Oakland hadn’t been to the postseason since 2002. It lost in the wild-card round to Houston without injured quarterback Derek Carr after he broke his leg in a Week 16 loss to the Colts.

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