The Chicago Bears made arguably the biggest trade of the 2018 season Saturday morning acquiring All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders via trade.
Mack and the Raiders were at an impasse in regards to a contract extension in which he already held out of the pre-season and was threatening to hold out into the regular season. There were multiple reasons as to why general manager Ryan Pace needed to make this trade as there was no price too high for the Bears not to pay to get Mack.
Sources to ESPN: Raiders and Bears have an agreement in place to trade Khalil Mack to Chicago. Still working through it, but Raiders now planning to send Mack to Chicago.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 1, 2018
Mack, the fifth overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, has been one of the best edge rushers in the league if not the best. He has been named to the Pro-Bowl the last three seasons and has been an All-Pro twice. The edge rusher has recorded double-digit sacks the last three seasons and has averaged 10 sacks per season in his first four years in the league.
Add his numbers to a Bears defense that was top 10 defense under Vic Fangio last season and Chicago could possibly have the best defense in the league this season.
With the trade, Pace has now transformed his team into a legitimate playoff contender for the next few seasons. The move not only bolsters the Bears defense in a division that features Pro-Bowl quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Matthew Stafford, it also protects his own quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. One of the teams most heavily rumored to be targeting Mack was the Green Bay Packers.
If the Packers added him with Clay Matthews and Mike Daniels, their defense would cause major issues for the Bears offense for years to come. Jason La Canfora reported Friday night that the list of teams had grown to a large group.
Add the 49ers to the group of team's fully exploring the possibility of a Khalil Mack trade, along with NYJ, BUF, IND, GB, CLE, CHI
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 1, 2018
With the trade, the Bears offense is better protected as now it is their defense that can be very imposing in the NFC North for years to come as it now has shored up a current weak spot on the defense. Throughout this past off-season and through the pre-season, there were questions about the depth and quality of the outside linebacker position after Leonard Floyd.
As the team moved on from many pass-rushing linebackers in the off-season, the big question was whether or not the team would be able to generate enough pressure from the position to be a success. Adding Mack solves that issue as Floyd now becomes the secondary pass-rusher and good one at that.
For Pace’s job, the trade was needed to fully demonstrate his ability to completely overhaul the roster in which he came into back in 2015 when he was hired as general manager. In 2014, the Bears roster was in a total mess as they had no future stars on defense with aging and dysfunctional group of players on offense. In four seasons, Pace has renovated the Bears roster via youth in the draft and sensible veteran free agency signings.
The Bears group of playmakers now include Trubisky, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Allen Robinson, Floyd, Kyle Fuller, Akiem Hicks, and now Mack.
In regards to the 2018 season, expectations have now changed as with the addition to Mack the Bears are expected to compete for a playoff spot and even the Super Bowl.
This was needed for Pace also as he now could be on the cusp of his first winning season as Bears general manager. In last three seasons, the team has only won 14 games, but much blame wasn’t placed on Pace for his roster decisions but on head coach John Fox and his coaching mishaps. When the team hired Matt Nagy as head coach this past January, it was to develop a successful offense through Trubisky with Pace being fully responsible for the team’s success or failure.
The trade will be a hefty price for the Bears, as they are expected to part with multiple first-round draft selections and possibly even players from the current roster. Pace and the Bears will not have a first and second-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft as they trade their 2019 second round pick to the Patriots for the right to draft a wide receiver, Anthony Miller.
If they need to add an impact player they will have to do via free agency the next two seasons. They will also have to re-sign Mack to possibly the biggest contract for a defensive player, even bigger than defensive tackle Aaron Donald who signed a six-year, 135 million dollar deal on Friday.
When the Bears season begins in prime time next Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, there will be a new focus for the season. Instead of watching their new offense develop, their new focus will be on winning the division and making a deep playoff run. Pace deserves all praise as he went all in for his biggest deal as Bears general manager after an off-season full of major moves.
As he focused on the offense throughout the off-season, he saved his biggest defensive transaction on the eve of the 2018 season which now possibly could be a memorable one.