Hoonhout: Mack deal could go either way for Bears
Tobias Hoonhout | Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Well, it happened in 2009, and it happened again.
The Chicago Bears sent shockwaves through the NFL this past weekend when general manager Ryan Pace traded two first round picks to the Oakland Raiders for All-Pro Khalil Mack in a deal that many thought wasn’t even on the table. Then, Pace immediately signed Mack to a six-year, $141 million dollar contract with $90 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid defender in the league. While there’s no denying Mack’s talent, and while this move certainly marks a statement of intent from the Bears, the enormous cost could prove insurmountable. With that in mind, let’s look at a case for and a case against such a monumental deal.
Players like Mack simply don’t become available by trade in the NFL. There were rumbles that Oakland was balking at the two-time first-team All-Pro’s asking price for a new deal, but still, most teams apparently thought there was no way Oakland would simply trade away their best player.
With 40.5 sacks over four seasons, Mack is the cream of the crop when it comes to pass rushers. Mack gives the Bears and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a major upgrade in a place where the Bears were desperately hungry — Chicago hasn’t had a double digit pass-rusher in a single season since 2014. The addition of Mack suddenly makes a Bears defense — which already has a young core of linebacker Leonard Floyd, corner Kyle Fuller and rookie linebacker Roquan Smith — a very promising unit indeed. While the loss of two first round picks is always a big question mark, Chicago definitely sees the NFC North as perhaps the toughest conference in football, with the Vikings, the Packers and the Lions all set to be contenders.
This move gives the Bears a chance, and if they really think the team can be a contender with Mitch Trubisky under center, it’s hard to argue that a mid-first round pick could land anything close to the level of Mack. It appears they are sick of losing in the Windy City.
Even for a player of Mack’s quality, the astronomical cost for Chicago in making a deal like this happen could leave it doomed from the start. While the Bears’ front office might be hoping that this deal looks a lot like the one that sent Jared Allen to Minnesota in 2008, for the fans it may be a bad dose of déjà vu; the last team to ship out two first round picks for a veteran player was, you guessed it: Chicago, for none other than Jay Cutler. Yeah, that turned out well.
One also has to factor in the opportunity cost associated with the loss of two rookie contracts, coupled with the money the Bears are shelling out for Mack. There’s definitely a case to be made that two first round picks on rookie contracts would prove more valuable than Mack on $20 million a year, especially from an economic stand point. Not only would the Bears likely be able to land significant veteran contributors and have more flexibility in doing so, but first round picks that are leveraged right are the most valuable assets in football. Ultimately, the team may feel more comfortable hedging on a known commodity in Mack than watching the rest of the division beat up on the Bears for at least several more seasons. While it may be foolhardy, it might seem the only option for a team that wants to contend.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.