Expectations for Khalil Mack with Chicago Bears in 2021

Quinn Harris/Getty Images
Quinn Harris/Getty Images /
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Khalil Mack has recorded 30 sacks in three seasons for the Chicago Bears. With Mack being the player he has and the expectations that he set there are some fans that view what he has done as a disappointment. To be fair, Mack has not had one of the best three years runs in recent memory, and now will be entering his age 30 season, which typically is the tip of the mountain.

With that in mind, it is worth wondering how much more Mack will bring as he ages. We know that he is not near the end, but he may not be at the peak where we can expect him to be a leader in the league in sacks.

When looking historically, some of the players who compare best to the run that Mack has had in Chicago are Derrick Thomas, Everson Griffen, Michael Strahan, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Julius Peppers.

Check out how their age 27 through 29 years compared to what Mack has done the past three seasons.

Totals Table
TacklesFumblesDef Interceptions
RkPlayerFromToAVGSoloAstQBHitsTFLSk
FFFRYdsTDIntYdsTD
1Derrick Thomas*1994199638471601932.095110000
2Everson Griffen20142016324711139763730.543201000
3Khalil Mack20182020414610638452930.0145002601
4Michael Strahan*199820003848147442930.026002682
5Jason Pierre-Paul20162018224413148493428.062431000
6Julius Peppers20072009364610625443027.51331103131

These are some big names, and give us a lot of hope for what the ending years of Mack prime will look like. So, let’s look specifically at what they did in their age 30 seasons, the same age Mack will be next season. They clearly have been similar so far.  Since we can compare six players, we added Cameron Jordan, another player with very similar stats to Mack from age 27-29.

Below you can see how Jordan, along with the other five compare to each other in their age 30 seasons. These are the types of results that Mack could be looking for.

Totals Table
TackTackTackTackFumbFumbFumbFumbDef
RkPlayerYearGSoloAstQBHitsTFLSkFFFRYdsTDInt
1Everson Griffen2017153114251213.030000
2Cameron Jordan2019163716251515.501000
3Julius Peppers201016431118118.030002
4Jason Pierre-Paul2019102431698.520000
5Michael Strahan*20011661122422.5611310
6Derrick Thomas*1997122869.530000

For the optimistic crowd, Strahan set the sack record in a season at age 30. Strahan had 30 sacks from age 27 to 29 then had 22.5 for his age 30 seasons. It sure would be fun if Mack had that same type of result.

Still, you can see that overall the bar is still going to be high for Mack. Griffen and Jordan have 13 and 15 sacks respectively. Peppers, JPP, and Thomas range from 8 to 9.5, so we are seeing that the nine sacks that Mack had last year should be in line, or about a floor for what to expect from Mack next season.

When the cliff might come for Khalil Mack

One cautionary tale did come when looking into these great comparisons. Derrick Thomas played his age 30, 31, and 32 seasons but retired at age 32. He had seven sacks in his last year, and 27 sacks over the final three, but 32 was it.

Griffen had 26.5 sacks from 30-32 but was cut after age 32. He played last year at age 33, but bounced around and was not as effective. Strahan had 11 sacks at 31, and 18.5 at 32. However, age 33 injury. Strahan prolonged his career, but clearly, age 30-32 was the end of his peak, and he began rotating behind Osi Umenyora and JPP.

JPP and Cameron Jordan have not fallen off at all but will be 32 this year.

The Chicago Bears had Peppers age 30-33, and it is fair to say that Bears fans would be okay with similar results over that age period. Even for Peppers, the Bears let him go at age 33 and he found a way to haunt them and play until 38.

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Between Strahan and Peppers, there is realistic outcomes where Mack plays until age 36 or later, and still has success. However, at age 30-32, the next three seasons may be the last of prime and peak Khalil Mack.