Revisiting Bears-Chargers Khalil Mack Trade Ahead of Sunday Night Football

Revisiting Bears-Chargers Khalil Mack Trade Ahead of Sunday Night Football

The Chicago Bears play the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night for the first time since shipping Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack out west early last year.

Mack spent four seasons in Chicago after being acquired in a trade from the then-Oakland Raiders in 2018. The highlight of Mack’s Bears tenure came in that first season when his 12.5 sacks earned him first-team All-Pro status and Chicago won the NFC North. The 32-year-old said this week he is looking forward to taking the field alongside the few remaining Bears players left from his time with the team, including safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

Chargers LB Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack #52 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts after his sack during a 24-17 Chargers win over the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Inglewood, California. Mack plays one of his former teams, the Chicago Bears, on Sunday.
Harry How/Getty Images/Getty Images

“Those are my little brothers, man,” Mack told reporters this week. “It is always good to see them, But we got a job to do Sunday, and that’s to win the ballgame.”

The Bears may not be as thrilled to see their former star.

Mack recorded six sacks, one off of the NFL record for a single game, in a Week 4 Chargers win over the Raiders, the most recent time the linebacker played against one of his former teams. Perhaps another standout performance awaits in primetime.

Before the Bears (2-5) and Chargers (2-4) kick off their matchup, here’s a look back at the Mack trade, and how it has played out for both sides.

Looking at Bears in Post-Mack Era

A lot changed in Chicago after the 2021 season.

Bears coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace were both fired after a 6-11 year. A new G.M. was brought in to overhaul the roster and start fresh—Ryan Poles. And a move Poles made early in his tenure was parting with Mack, who at one time came to the Bears in a different blockbuster trade.

Chicago sent four draft picks, including two first-rounders, to the Raiders in exchange for Mack just before the start of the 2018 season. The franchise then rewarded the seven-time Pro Bowler with a six-year, $141 million contract that made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history at the time. Eventually, the Bears wanted that deal off of their books.

The Bears sent Mack to the Chargers in March of last year, and as their end of the deal, received a 2022 second-round pick—which they turned into starting safety Jaquan Brisker—and a 2023 sixth-round selection that ended up being traded again. But the key part of the trade, at least for the Bears, may have been financially motivated.

The Chargers took on the three remaining years of Mack’s contract, which totaled out at $63.9 million, providing the Bears with salary-cap flexibility.

“With the excitement of the players we did bring in, I would say one of the harder things to do was the Khalil Mack trade,” Poles said at the time. “…That caliber of a player is not easy to move on from, but it’s one of those situations that you knew you had to do what is best for the club.”

Mack finished his four-year Bears career, which was dampened by different injuries, with 36 sacks in 53 games played. The Bears are 5-19 since trading Mack.

Despite the extra money to work with, the Bears haven’t found a consistent replacement for Mack on the edge. Chicago ranked last in the NFL with 20 sacks last season. Oddly enough, Brisker led the team with four. Bears edge rushers have 11 sacks since the start of last season, per the Chicago Sun-Times, while Mack has 15.

Mack Heating Up For Chargers

The Mack trade was considered a beneficial move for both the Bears and Chargers. Chicago cleared up some money, while Los Angeles paired Mack with their other top-tier pass-rusher, Joey Bosa.

But Los Angeles has fallen short of those high expectations in both of the last two seasons. The Chargers went 10-7 last year, earning a Wild Card berth. But then the Bolts blew a 27-0 lead to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs. This season, the Chargers—seen as a playoff contender and led by Pro Bowl quarterback Justin Herbert—have as many wins entering Week 8 as the lowly Bears.

Mack finished his first season in L.A. with 50 tackles and eight sacks. Despite not bringing down an opposing quarterback in any of his first three games of this season, the edge-rusher is tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks with seven thanks to his standout performance against the Raiders. He is also nearing the 100-sack milestone, currently sitting at 91.5 for his career.

The former Defensive Player of the Year ranks eighth in the NFL in sacks (51) since 2018, and only T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers has more forced fumbles in that span.

“He’s good at everything,” said rookie QB Tyson Bagent, who is making his second-career start Sunday in Justin Fields’ absence, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s strong, stout, a good pass rusher. He’s just not lacking a whole lot in anything.”

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