The Chicago Bears’ decision to trade superstar edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason generated a mixed bag of reviews. General manager Ryan Poles inherited a roster in desperate need of a makeover, so leveraging a big-name asset like Mack for a quality draft pick (No. 50 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft) made sense. The salary-cap relief — the Bears free up more than $28 million in spending money next offseason — made the deal a no-brainer.
However, there’s an on-field reality that won’t be felt until the 2022 season. With Mack back in the AFC West, the Bears have to figure out how they’ll replace his production. He started 52 games over the last four years in Chicago and recorded 36 sacks for a pass rush that was invisible without him until Robert Quinn’s record-setting 2021 campaign. Mack’s impact extended beyond the stat sheet, too. His presence demanded attention from opposing offensive coordinators; he dictated protections and freed up other players on the Bears’ defense to make plays. And while it’s true that Mack’s play has been on the decline, he’s still regarded as one of the best defenders in the NFL.