Khalil Mack

NFL free agency: Making sense of Derek Carr's Instagram of Khalil Mack

NFL free agency: Making sense of Derek Carr's Instagram of Khalil Mack

There's smoke here and Derek Carr is coming to the Bears, right?

You might want to believe that if you, the Bears fan who’s given up on Mitch Trubisky, read into Carr's caption-free Thursday Instagram post. The photo was of Carr, who’s still employed by the Raiders, with his good friend Khalil Mack. 

Couple Carr’s confusingly similarly named brother, David, posting a hashtag (#megaPowers) on it and the inference is crystal clear, right? This can only mean one thing: Carr will quarterback the Bears in 2020.

That’s the good stuff. 

Welcome to the silliness of NFL free agency, where Stefon Diggs deleting photos of himself in a Minnesota Vikings uniform means the moody receiver definitely wants to be traded (that happened with Jordan Howard two years ago and…Howard was not traded).

Know how to interpret a single emoji in a tweet from an impending free agent or disgruntled star? Congrats! You're qualified to be an NFL insider.

Now: Carr posting a photo with one of his closest buddies means he very well could want a reunion with Mack in Chicago. 

Nevermind the minor details of Carr 1) Still being on a Raiders team that doesn’t currently have his replacement on the roster and won’t until mid-March at the earliest, 2) carrying a $21.5 million cap hit in 2020, about $7 million more than the Bears’ available salary cap and 3) not having any control over where he’d go if the Raiders were to trade him.

RELATED: Bears Free Agent Focus: Eric Ebron

Maybe Carr found a picture of himself and his best friend, and posted it for no other reason than it was a good photo, as those of us on Instagram often do. 

More importantly, The Bears look unlikely to make a splash move at quarterback if you follow the money. Carr is too expensive to trade for while also successfully filling red-line needs at tight end, right guard, inside linebacker and safety. 

Or maybe there is smoke here and the Raiders have made it clear to Carr they’re going to explore the quarterback market (maybe with Cam Newton, maybe with Tom Brady), and he’s starting to agitate for a trade to Chicago. Maybe the Bears are back-channeling some discussions to make sure they’re at the front of Mike Mayock’s mind when he tries to find a landing spot for Carr in the event he and Jon Gruden lure Brady to Las Vegas. The Bears, theoretically, could trade for Carr and sign him to an extension that makes his 2020 cap hit more palatable. 

You can see why the Bears might want Carr, who's had success in the past, is cheap relative to other starting quarterbacks and could be viewed as this franchise's version of Alex Smith. But that’s a long way off.  

And it’s not unprecedented for a vague Instagram post to portend the future. Remember when Allen Robinson posted a photo of himself in a Cubs jersey a month before signing in Chicago?

Or another possibility — and this tracks the most: Maybe Carr is just messing with everyone, knowing his name has been mentioned by the media as a potential trade target. 

As Instagram user angel.et.03 so elegantly put it in a comment: “Carr just f***ing with us at this point.”

Good on Carr if he is. He certainly succeeded.

Then again: Of the 70,000+ likes the photo has, one of them is from the user “fiftydeuce,” — Mack himself.

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Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson earn spots on PFF's top 101 players of 2019

Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson earn spots on PFF's top 101 players of 2019

It wasn't all that bad for the Bears in 2019. Sure, their 8-8 record and fall from the top of the NFC North wasn't what fans expected, but it could've been worse. Remember: The Bears won a total of eight games between the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined.

There were also a few player performances that stood out last season, namely OLB Khalil Mack and WR Allen Robinson. They were both recognized for their quality years by Pro Football Focus, who listed Mack and Robinson among the NFL's top 101 players of 2019.

48. EDGE KHALIL MACK, CHICAGO BEARS

It says something about the quality of Khalil Mack that a relative “down year” for him still sees him end the season with an overall PFF grade of 86.2 and 70 total pressures. This marks the first time since his rookie year that his overall grade slipped below 90.0, and his 70 pressures are also the fewest he has tallied since his first year in the league. Mack may not have been at his very best this season, but even 80% of that player is a dominant force most weeks in the league.

Mack didn't have the MVP-level season some analysts (yours truly included) thought he'd enjoy in 2019, but he was still Chicago's best all-around defender and was one of the best edge rushers in the NFL despite finishing with just 8.5 sacks. It was his lowest total since his rookie season. Still, Mack is the foundation of the Bears defense for both the short and long term and should have a nice bounce-back campaign in 2020.

85. WR ALLEN ROBINSON II, CHICAGO BEARS

Allen Robinson's ability to produce despite the neverending list of dismal quarterback play over his career has been remarkable. Again, he was able to grade among the better receivers in the game despite Mitchell Trubisky's game falling off a cliff and the fact that he had to suffer through the play of backup Chase Daniel at times, as well. Robinson ended the season with over 1,100 yards from 153 targets, catching 64% of the balls thrown his way over the year. His ability to excel despite far from ideal quarterback play is phenomenal.

No Bear stood out more than Robinson last season, who came just two catches shy of 100. His ability to produce at a high level despite opposing defenses knowing he was going to be the primary target in the passing game was fantastic. He's entering the final year of his contract and should be a priority for GM Ryan Pace to re-sign, especially with the anticipated improvements made at quarterback and the offensive line. His production will only go up, as will his price tag if Chicago doesn't get a deal done soon.

Khalil Mack won't be playing in the 2020 Pro Bowl

Khalil Mack won't be playing in the 2020 Pro Bowl

If you're one of the 48 people who plan on watching the Pro Bowl this weekend, you and your 47 friends won't be seeing Khalil Mack. 

It was announced on Tuesday morning that the Bears' star pass rusher will again miss the annual "showcase" with an unspecified injury. While he's been elected to 5 Pro Bowls, this is the second time in two years that he's missed the event since being traded to Chicago.

Replacing Mack will be Green Bay's Za'Darius Smith. Smith had 13.5 sacks this season, which was sixth-best in the NFL. It was the most sacks in anyone's first season in Green Bay since 1982, as well as the fifth most in a single season in Packers' history (since 1982), per the team's press release. 

By comparison, Mack had 8.5 sacks this season, the lowest mark since his rookie year in 2014. It was also the first time since that season that he failed to reach double-digits. The Bears will still have three representatives in Orlando this weekend: Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, and Cordarrelle Patterson. 

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