What if I told you at the beginning of this season that there’d actually be a discussion about whether the Bears should trade Khalil Mack for multiple first-round picks entering Week 10? You’d probably call me crazy. Maybe something even worse. But that discussion occurred Tuesday on Kap and Company on ESPN1000.
ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky was asked if he’d consider dealing Mack to a team willing to part with a pair of golden first-rounders for his services. His answer was thought-provoking, to say the least. According to Orlovsky, Mack’s impact on opposing offenses has been lessened because of the NFL’s quick-hitting passing game. He’d trade him.
“I’m such a person on building the interior of lines, and the game that the NFL is nowadays, I think Khalil Mack is a ridiculously good football player,” Orlovsky said. “I don’t need to tell anybody that. The ball comes out really quickly nowadays. The last four years I’ve said, give me interior people before edges and that’s on both sides of the ball. Give me a really good center and really good guard more than really good tackle nowadays in the NFL. Teams aren’t dropping back in condenses space and doing seven-step drops and holding the ball for four seconds like they used to and give me guys who can get the interior pressure more than the edge pressure because the ball comes out of the quarterback’s hands so quickly nowadays.”
Put another way, players like Aaron Donald are much more valuable than Mack, in Orlovsky’s opinion, because of their ability to disrupt the pocket immediately after the snap as opposed to an edge defender who needs a least a few seconds to turn the corner and reach the quarterback.
There’s a lot of truth to that theory. But Orlovsky is overlooking the impact Mack has beyond just the stats. His sack totals may dip over time because of how offenses are evolving, but he’ll always command double and triple teams which, by default, makes it easier for players like Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman to do their job. And if we look at the last four seasons of Mack’s production, which is the range of time Orlovsky suggested he’s championed this theory, his argument doesn’t hold up. Mack has 49 sacks over that span.
Offenses can evolve. Quarterbacks can get rid of the ball much quicker. And Mack will still eat.
Generational talents like Mack should never — ever — be traded. That’s why the Raiders were mocked when they got rid of him last offseason. Sure, the Raiders are in the process of flipping that trade into some legitimate talent (namely running back Josh Jacobs), but they’ll never truly replace Mack. In fact, we could go through a decade of NFL draft cycles before the next Mack comes along.
Draft picks can be overvalued sometimes. Especially when they’re used as bait for a proven Hall-of-Fame talent like Mack. General managers swing and miss, year after year, on first-round picks. Bears fans are all too used to this since 2015, when Ryan Pace has used his first-round picks on Kevin White, Leonard Floyd, Mitch Trubisky and Roquan Smith. Chicago will be lucky if just one of them (Smith) ends up being a long-term impact player.
Is there any reason to feel confident in Pace’s ability, based on his track record, to flip Mack into two really good players? The answer is no.
And let’s not act like this Bears team is in rebuilding mode. They’re a quarterback away from being a legitimate contender. The expectation in 2019 was that Trubisky would develop into that quarterback. He hasn’t. But that doesn’t mean this roster needs a makeover. It just needs a quarterback, and there will be several appealing veteran options available this offseason to fill that void.
Don’t trade Mack. Don’t even let the thought creep into your mind. If it does, seek help immediately.