The Bears are reportedly nearing a trade that would send Pro Bowl pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Thursday.
This would mark the first major move that new Bears general manager Ryan Poles has orchestrated. Poles has been on the job a little over a month.
Mack has been a mainstay for the Bears defense since 2018, when former general manager Ryan Pace traded several draft picks, including two first-round picks, to the Raiders for him. The Bears then signed Mack to a massive six-year, $141 million contract extension that made him the highest-paid NFL defender at the time.
Mack remains under contract through 2024. According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Chargers are sending the Bears a second-round pick in this year’s draft and a sixth-rounder in 2023.
The Bears already owned the 39th overall pick in the 2022 draft and will now have the Chargers’ pick at No. 48 as well.
While a second- and sixth-round draft pick in exchange for a player the Bears traded two first-round picks for seems like a net loss, the salary cap numbers tell a different story.
Several times over the past four years, the Bears restructured Mack’s deal, pushing money into the future in order to create cap space in the present. Trading Mack now comes with a $24 million dead cap penalty for the Bears in 2022 and frees up $6 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap.com.
That is minimal savings when the salary cap is $208.2 million in 2022. But more importantly, the trade frees up the $28.5 million Mack was due in 2023 and the $26.2 million he was due in 2024. Those huge future cap savings are likely why the Bears didn’t receive a first-round pick in exchange. The Chargers are expected to take on all of the money remaining on Mack’s deal.
That will give Poles tremendous salary cap flexibility in the coming years.
It could pave the way for the Bears to extend inside linebacker Roquan Smith, who is entering the final year of his deal in 2022.
Mack sat out 10 games last season with a foot injury. The injury required season-ending surgery. He had been having a productive season with six sacks and a fumble recovery in seven games.
In four seasons with the Bears, he recorded 36 sacks, forced 14 fumbles, recovered six fumbles, hit the quarterback 52 times and pulled in two interceptions. He went to the Pro Bowl three times and was an All-Pro in 2018.
Mack was the centerpiece of the 2018 defense that brought the Bears back to the postseason, but since then that defense has been overshadowed by the Bears’ inabilities on offense. Mack’s 2018 season was his best in Chicago. He had 12.5 sacks in 14 games. His outside linebackers coach that season was none other than Brandon Staley, the current Chargers head coach.
Staley clearly valued Mack’s presence. The arms race in the AFC West appears to have no end in sight. The Broncos traded for QB Russell Wilson earlier this week. Now the Chargers have bolstered their defense.