What Khalil Mack trade means for Bears defensive line


When the Bears fired Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, and replaced them with Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus we all knew that the roster would look significantly different. The extent of those changes were anyone’s guess. But after Thursday’s blockbuster trade which reportedly sent Khalil Mack to the Chargers in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2022 and a sixth-round pick in 2023, we now know that Poles and Eberflus have big plans for the team moving forward.

The Bears will be unable to replace what Mack brings to the team with those two picks, but by trading him now Poles made a play for the long term development of the team. In the short term, other players will have to pick up the slack. The Bears still have Robert Quinn, who is coming off a record-breaking 19.5 sack season. Trevis Gipson took a big step in his development in 2021 with seven sacks and five forced fumbles. Depth players like Mario Edwards Jr. and Jeremiah Attaochu are still under contract, too, although Attaochu has primarily played outside linebacker throughout his career.

What was at first thought to be the team’s strongest position group obviously took a big hit. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Bears will replace Mack with another top-tier defensive end. Eberflus’ defense relies on generating pressure with his four down lineman, but he never had a superstar edge rusher in Indianapolis. It’s been noted many times the pivotal role that a disruptive defensive tackle plays in Eberflus’ defense, so that could be an area where the team spends extra money to bolster the roster moving forward. If Poles does bring in another defensive end, Al-Quadin Muhammad could garner a look. He’s played 64 games for Eberflus in Indianapolis, and after playing in a rotational role from 2018-2020, Eberflus made Muhammad a starter in 2021.


In four seasons with the Bears, Mack racked up 36 sacks, 14 forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. He was off to a fast start in 2021 with six sacks in seven games, but a foot injury cut his season short.

According to OverTheCap, the Bears will have $24 million in dead money this year for trading Mack, while freeing up $6 million in salary cap space. However in 2023 they will be completely free from what would have been a nearly $23 million cap hit.

Mack is a three-time First-Team All-Pro and has been named to the Pro Bowl six times. He also won defensive player of the year in 2016.

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