Take a moment to think back of some of the most fearsome defences in NFL history. There have been some brutal pass rushers in the history of the game, some linebackers that cause chaos. The 1985 Bears were in a league of their own, such was their dominance. They flattened opponents. It was as if their defence were actual bears, mauling the men who set up against them. The ’85 Bears are the benchmark of top class defence, and is what every team has been trying to emulate ever since.
Many teams have tried and failed to mimic this legendary team, including, naturally, the Chicago Bears. In their latest efforts to recapture the former form of the franchise, Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey made one monumental move – they’ve blown their budget on Khalil Mack.
Mack to bring the Bears back
Chicago have been a shadow of their former glory for years now. Kyle Orton, followed by Jay Cutler, with a bit of Josh McCown and Brian Hoyer filling in the injury gaps. Offensively they haven’t been great for a while. Their defence has been hit and miss, some years significantly better than others. A strong rookie year by Mitchell Trubisky and some clever acquisitions of late have certainly given Da Bears a bit of hope for the coming year, but it was a move on De-Fence that has really got Chicago fans excited.
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Khalil Mack, or Khalil Sack as he should be nicknamed, is a beast. The linebacker was drafted fifth overall in the NFL Draft in 2014, the Oakland Raiders electing to take Mack to shore up their defence. In four seasons with the California-based side Mack played in every single regular season game, making 40.5 sacks and forcing nine fumbles – as well as one interception returned for a touchdown in 2016, picking off Cam Newton.
By securing the services of Khalil Mack, the Bears have added a huge asset on defence, while Oakland have lost out big time. In 2017 the Raiders made 31 sacks. Mack attained 10.5 of these. The Bears were tied 7th on the sack list with 42 sacks made.
The addition of Khalil Mack can only boost the defence of Chicago. Their offence is slowly improving, but when compared to the elite offence of Aaron Rodgers‘ passing game, the multi-threat attack of the Vikings and the unpredictability of the Detroit Lions, the Bears were in need of an upgrade.
Lifts a whole team
Mack is not only an elite player, as shown by his three Pro Bowl appearances and 2016 Defensive Player Of The Year, he is an asset in himself to the Bears, and it brings about more. He is a lift to his team mates. Look at the defence of the Dallas Cowboys, as shown on the Amazon Prime series All or Nothing. Sean Lee is a leader, he is a lift to his team. When he played they won, or at least fought tooth and nail to the end. With him out of the side the team flopped. Von Miller at Denver has a similar effect. Khalil Mack will not only add his own stats to the line up, but he’ll be a lift to the defence. He’ll increase the intensity of training and build the offence. This player is the sort of calibre that can get the Windy City excited in their team again.
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The signing of Khalil Mack is a great move by the Bears, but good things don’t come cheap in the NFL. Let’s look at the numbers. On Saturday night Mack signed for the Chicago Bears on a six year contract for a record smashing $141 million. This deal sees Mack bag a cool $60 million up front, with $90 million guaranteed. The Bears have given up their first round picks in 2019 and 2020 for this player, as well as a sixth round pick in 2019 and a third round pick in 2020.
This is a huge risk for the Bears, who are placing a lot of faith in Mack. The money is self explanatory, it is a huge outlay of cash for the services of a player (although the revenue they will make on the commercials that the player can bring will soften the blow slightly). Giving up the draft spots is where the risk lies.
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The plan is that Mack raises the game of the team to the point that they can seriously challenge for a Super Bowl. The plan has a chance. The problem lies with his old team. Mack was a huge part of the Raiders franchise, showcasing his enormous talent. The problem was that they only made the playoffs once in his four years there, losing out to the Houston Texans.
Mack is a talented player, but he doesn’t guarantee a playoff berth. The Raiders had a better offence over the past few seasons than the Bears do for this coming season, and they couldn’t make it work. The Bears have given away some good draft picks for Mack, with no guarantee of the playoffs. Now Mack should help their cause, but he is playing in the most aggressive league in the world. He could tear an ACL. He could break a leg. He could find himself out for a season, with no highly rated rookie to step in ease the burden.
Positives for Oakland
We have looked at the upside and the risk for the Bears in this deal, but what of the Raiders. Fans are furious at losing their stud linebacker, their adoration for Jon Gruden sullied somewhat. They had hopes of Jordy Nelson forming a bond with Derek Carr akin to that of his time with Rodgers up in Green Bay. They had hoped that with Mack running the defence that they could dominate the division, taking advantage of a so-so LA Chargers, a hurting Denver Broncos and a hit or miss Kansas City Chiefs.
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Anger is understandable, nobody likes to see their star leave. This may not have been the worst move by Oakland. They have certainly lost a huge asset, but they have attained some excellent draft picks going forward. They had also gotten rid of a bad influence…
Why was Mack a bad influence? Well, he simply hadn’t shown up since the end of last season. He was holding out for a contract that the Raiders were unwilling to entertain. The numbers were too high and Khalil was not in the mood to train with a team that undervalued him. Jon Gruden is all about the good of the team, so when the Bears came sniffing about their star linebacker, he had no qualms about waiving the former Buffalo Bulls star. No player should be bigger than the team in his mind, and this at least gave him a chance to make a point.
Not quite enough for Chicago
There are a lot of takeaways from this story. This deal is a risk on both sides. The Bears have invested hugely, while the Raiders have lost a star. How will both sides do in this scenario? The Raiders come off worse. They have lost a star in his prime, with no ready-made replacement lined up, startlingly close to the season opener. The Bears have done better. They have invested a lot, but it is on a banker of a player who will boost the organisation. There is risk attached, but the Bears will almost certainly improve on last season. While I foresee Da Bears improving, I don’t see them making the playoffs ahead of Green Bay and Minnesota this season.
This is just a prediction, however. The fact is that the Bears have added a much needed star to their roster. A huge boost is that he now plays in a different conference to the Patriots! The NFC is significantly less one-sided, a Super Bowl run isn’t unfathomable for Mack and the Bears. The real winner here is Mack himself. He moves to a history-laden organisation and a phenomenal city, not to mention his bank account looks pretty good right now!