Khalil Mack: Grading the Massive Chargers-Bears Trade

The Los Angeles Chargers shocked everybody by acquiring star pass rusher Khalil Mack in a trade with the Chicago Bears. The cost wasn’t much, and now the Chargers can have Joey Bosa, Derwin James Jr., and Mack all on the same defense.

With free agency still days away, the NFL turned upside down. Aaron Rodgers returned to the Green Bay Packers. Carson Wentz got traded to the Washington Commanders and Russell Wilson went to the Denver Broncos. Then, Deshaun Watson got cleared of charges and his market is ramping up.

But, the addition of Mack was the most surprising of them all, and the Chargers will head into free agency with the best pass-rushing duo in the league.

Let’s look at the trade and hand out grades for both teams.

The full details of the Chargers-Bears trade

The entire trade is as follows: The Chargers get Mack, and the Bears get a 2022 second-round pick and a sixth-round choice in 2023.

That is it.

But, the Chargers are also in line to pick up Mack’s contract, freeing the Bears of the money he would have earned if he stuck around in the Windy City.

That isn’t very much to give up for one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, and this move makes sense for both parties for several reasons.

The Chargers got a star for a second-round pick

The Chargers won the Khalil Mack trade.
Khalil Mack | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chargers won this trade by a landslide. That’s all that needs to be said.

Sure, the money on Mack’s deal looks like a lot, but there is a way out of it for the Chargers, and the acquisition gives LA plenty of flexibility (h/t Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic).

But what the Chargers are paying for is flexibility. Mack’s contract doesn’t contain any more guaranteed money. That means if it doesn’t work out in 2022, the Chargers are off the hook. They can release him or trade him without any further cap implications. Essentially, they’re trading for just his 2022 salary, roster bonus and workout bonus ($17.75 million) and the option to keep him beyond that. Had they signed a top edge rusher in free agency, they would not have had that same type of flexibility beyond 2022.

The Athletic

That answers a lot of questions for everybody. The Chargers can cut ties with him if it doesn’t work out. But it will probably work out just fine.

The Chargers gave up a second-round pick this year and a sixth-round choice. A Day Three pick is always hit or miss, and the second in the middle of the round. This isn’t very much for the Chargers to give up in hindsight.

Back to the contract details, Mack is set to earn $21.3 million for each year left on his deal, and only T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett, and his counterpart Joey Bosa earn more. So there’s that.

The Chargers land one of the best at the position and have a lethal duo of Mack and Bosa — all for essentially a second-round draft choice.

LA has cash to spend in free agency still. They kept their 17th overall pick and added a run-stopping linebacker.

This is a monster move for the Chargers and a sign of what’s to come when free agency begins. Tom Telesco isn’t messing around this time.

Grade: A

The Bears rebuild begins with the departure of Khalil Mack

When the Mack trade was announced, everybody was stunned at the return. When Ian Rapoport first Tweeted out the news, he mentioned “prime draft pick compensation.”

Yet, somehow, the Chargers kept their first this year and next year. The Bears got just a second and a sixth, which seems exceptionally light.

But, the Bears were considering cutting Mack altogether, especially with no guaranteed money left on his deal. More than that, this gives the Bears a ton of cap space in 2023, when Chicago is expected to control the market.

The Bears traded a haul to the Las Vegas Raiders years ago to acquire Mack and it just didn’t work out. Now, Mack reunites with former linebackers coach Brandon Staley, who is the head coach of the Chargers.

Could the Bears have gotten more for Mack? Perhaps. But who knows, especially with Mack coming off a significant injury and playing just seven games during the 2021 NFL campaign.

This move was all about new general manager Ryan Poles beginning a rebuild and loading up to be the biggest buyer a year from now. He is getting ahead of the game, and the most crucial part is that the Bears got rid of his contract and got a second-round choice out of it.

This is not a bad haul considering the circumstances.

Grade: B

RELATED: With Khalil Mack, Bears Trade Short-Term Pain For Long-Term Gain