One day after the NFL world was rocked by the massive Aaron Donald extension, the Bears made an even bigger splash by acquiring star edge rusher Khalil Mack from the Raiders. Chicago will send Oakland their 2019 and 2020 first round picks, a 2020 third rounder and a 2019 sixth rounder and will receive a 2020 second round pick and a conditional 2020 fifth round pick along with Mack. Shortly after, the Bears signed Mack to a 6 year/$141 million extension with $90 million in guarantees, the richest ever for a defensive player. While the Bears paid what seems to be a substantial amount for Mack, they will soon be rewarded for doing so in short notice. Let’s investigate why.
Mack, 27, had 10.5 sacks a year ago, which gives 40.5 in 4 years, which is crazy considering he only had 4 in his rookie season. A three-time Pro Bowler, a two-time member of the All-Pro first team, and the defensive player of the year in 2016, he is as accomplished as it gets. It’s very rare that a player of his caliber is available via trade, so when they are, teams with enough assets need to pounce. That’s what the Bears did. However, the Bears did something that no one thought would happen in a Mack trade: they took advantage of the Raiders desperation to get rid of him. After Donald signed for $22.5 million a year, it became clear that the Raiders weren’t going to pay Mack. That made them desperate to trade him so they could get assets for him instead of losing him for nothing. The fact that Chicago got a second and a fifth-round pick back in the trade shows how they took advantage in the trade negotiations. As for the money, the Bears currently are paying quarterback Mitch Trubisky on his rookie contract so they could afford to pay Mack the money he wanted. Chicago was really lacking any future plan at edge rusher and getting Mack gives them a guy who can completely change the course of a game defensively.
For some reason, close to zero analysts had been giving the Bears a chance to win the division. That needs to change now. Chicago fielded a top 10 defense a season ago, and now have added arguably the best defensive player in the league and also drafted linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round of last year’s draft while not losing anyone of note. Yes, their offense was one of the worst a season ago, but there’s so much upside. Chicago hired former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as their head coach, who should help with the growth and development of Trubisky, as well as running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Trubisky also got lots of receiving help this offseason, as the team signed receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency along with tight end Trey Burton. They also added receiver Anthony Miller in the draft, giving them a very underrated receiving corps. The offensive line is also a strength, as their interior lineman (James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long) will help them win games in the trenches if they have to do. The only thing that seemed to have been holding Chicago back heading into this season was their lack of a pass rush, and it’s safe to say that hole has been more than filled.
To compete in the NFC North, the Bears will have to beat two outstanding teams in the Vikings and Packers. The good news: they match up excellently with both. The Vikings offensive line is more of a weakness than a strength, so Mack and the Bears defense should have a field day with him. As for the Packers, they too lack an elite offensive lineman and can easily be beaten in the trenches. If Chicago can win the head to head battle with this two teams, especially since they have a 4th place schedule, then their chances of winning the NFC North will be high.
Watch out: there may be a new king of the NFC North. By acquiring Khalil Mack, the Bears have filled their biggest need and now are a complete team. They pretty much acquired arguably the best defensive player without having to meet the asking price. Considering there were many teams involved in these sweepstakes, what the Bears did today was marvelous, to say the least.