Arrival of Khalil Mack Should Boost Chicago Bears in Defensive Rankings

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Khalil Mack #52 of the Oakland Raiders sacks Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos on November 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Khalil Mack #52 of the Oakland Raiders sacks Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos on November 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

On Saturday morning, many Chicago Bears fans woke up to the breaking news of a blockbuster trade that would make their team instant contenders in the NFC. The Bears’ front office did what many thought they wouldn’t do, and pulled the trigger to acquire Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack. The trade included Chicago surrendering two first-round draft picks for the three-time Pro Bowler.

Hours after the trade, the Bears signed Mack to a six-year, $141 million contract extension, guaranteeing him $90 million with $60 million guaranteed after signing, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

This contract exceeds the six-year, $135 million deal Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald received just a day before. Now, Mack is the highest paid defensive player in NFL history.

With Mack officially joining the Bears a week before the start of the regular season, Chicago is now expected to make some noise in 2018—more specifically, their defense. In 2017, the Bears’ defensive unit finished the year ranked 10th in total defense, 11th versus the run, and seventh defending the pass. These rankings show that Chicago was pretty solid without Mack. Now that the five-year veteran will be bringing his vicious skillset to the Bears’ defense, their rankings all across the board have great potential to elevate from last season.

If the team can benefit from the presence of Mack on the field, then individual players should reap rewards as well. Mack has shown his consistency in rushing the passer, amassing double-digit sacks in each of the last three seasons. Chicago’s leading sacker in 2017 was defensive end Akiem Hicks, with 8.5 sacks. Following Hicks was outside linebacker Leonard Floyd with 4.5 sacks. As a team, the Bears tallied 42 sacks (seventh in the NFL). Mack should definitely open things up for Chicago’s front seven, and could be just the thing Floyd needs to become the pass rusher general manager Ryan Pace envisioned.

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As for the Bears’ secondary, the havoc generated up front could lead to a rise in interceptions. The Bears recorded eight interceptions in 2017, tied for the third fewest in the league. Safety Eddie Jackson and cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan each had two interceptions. More pressure on opposing quarterbacks should make it easier for Chicago’s defensive backs to pick off passes. By year’s end, one or two of them may be a Pro Bowler.

This isn’t the first time the Bears made an offseason acquisition for a premier pass rusher. In 2010, Chicago signed Julius Peppers, and in 2014, the Bears inked a deal with Jared Allen. The only difference between the two previous additions and Mack joining the team is that Peppers and Allen were at the ages of 30 and 32, respectively, when they came to the Windy City—both having already played  several years in the league. Mack has only four years under his belt, and at the ripe age of 27, has started every game in his career, never missing one contest.

The combination of Mack’s youth and the fact that he probably hasn’t even reached his prime should make Chicago relevant in the NFC for several years. More importantly, Mack’s arrival shows that the Bears’ defense will a force to be dealt with, and as a whole, that the Bears are ready to win RIGHT NOW!