In 2018 the Bears made a huge splash trading for edge rusher Khalil Mack and making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. After four seasons in Chicago it looks as if Mack’s time may be coming to an end according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Bears are attempting to finalize a trade now that will send six-time Pro-Bowl DE Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers, sources tell ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 10, 2022
Schefter later indicated that the trade would be for a 2nd and 6th round draft pick.
I love this move for the Chargers. The great thing about trades for players is that it generally gives you access to a star player at a salary cap charge that is affordable relative to the actual size of the player’s contract. It also often carries no baggage beyond the first year of the trade.
If the Chargers make this trade they would get Mack on the salary cap for $17.75M in 2022, $22.9M in 2023, and $23.25 million in 2024. There is nothing guaranteed in the contract anymore so if things go really bad this year and Mack struggled to stay healthy or play well its as close as you can get to a “no harm, no foul” kind of move for a superstar in the NFL. Mack should not only give the team a dominating pass rush if healthy but also provide insurance in the event Joey Bosa was to go down for any extended period of time. Given where the team stands with their young QB and salary cap space these types of moves make all the sense in the world.
The decision matrix for Chicago is very different. Mack was set to count on the salary cap for $30.15 million in 2022 and $28.5 million in 2023. The Bears are currently trying to dig out of a salary cap mess that was left behind by the decisions of their prior general manager. Finding ways to clear out as much cap room as possible for the future while adding draft picks in the process gives Chicago the best chance to create a window similar to what the Chargers have with Justin Herbert. The low cost of Justin Fields will extend into the 2023 and 2024 years so clearing the books for those years makes far more sense than the perceived value of the trade being “just” a 2nd and 6th round pick while also racking up a massive amount of dead money.
As pointed out by Brad Spielberger, the dead money for Mack will be the highest in NFL history for a non-QB at $24 million. It will create $6.15 million in cap room for Chicago but the the real savings are where we look at the future. If the Bears do not do this trade and instead wait until next year they will wind up spending $41.75 million in cap on Mack (the $30.15M charge this year and $11.6M dead in 2023). Now it just costs the $24M giving the team a net positive of $17.75 million for 2023, cap space that can go a long way toward improving the team.
The trade can not be official before the start of the league year so the Bears will need to account for the $30.15 million salary cap charge during the first day of free agency. Mack has a roster bonus due on the 3rd day of the league year so expect the trade to be official between the 1st and 3rd day. We will process the move on the website once it is more or less confirmed as a done deal.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.