The Chicago Bears once again were in the news Labor Day Weekend, and for a good reason. The Bears completed a blockbuster trade, the type that does not happen often in the NFL. There had been rumors surrounding a possible trade of 3 time pro bowler, former defensive player of the year Oakland Raiders’ defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack. Entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, Mack held out of training camp and had no direct contact with the team as he was in search of a record-smashing contract that would make him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. Jon Gruden and the Raiders were unwilling to give Mack his money, and there were many reports that his holdout could last into the regular season. The NFL’s deadline for team’s to announce their official 53 man rosters was set for Saturday at 4:00 pm ET, and when the countdown came within 24 hours of the deadline, Gruden and Raiders’ general manager Reggie McKenzie started to really listen to trade offers from teams around the league.
It was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, ESPN’s Adam Schefter, as well as others that teams to inquire about acquiring Mack were the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and others. As far as I know, it was never reported that the Bears were seriously in contention to land Mack. Early on in Mack’s holdout, the Bears had some of the best odds to acquire Mack according to Vegas. As time progressed and insiders kept on reporting about these other teams, many people assumed that Chicago had rescinded any offers. I, for one, was not one of those people. It is no secret that Bears’ general manager Ryan Pace is extremely hush-hush when it comes to, well, everything related to football. Also keep this in mind: guys like Rapoport and Schefter have multiple trusted sources for each NFL team who give insight to Rapoport, Schefter, and other insiders who break stories. If teams do not give that sort of insight to those sources, the stories will never get passed on to the story-breakers, which means there was never really a story at all. Pace is so hush-hush, when he traded up to select North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky 2nd overall in 2017, he did not inform his own head coach, John Fox, of the plans to do so until just hours before the draft started. I remember watching that draft broadcast on NFL Network, and the analysts talked about how San Francisco 49ers’ general manager John Lynch had to have asked Pace about who they were planning to draft before completing the trade. A reporter was in that 49ers’ war room and reported that Lynch had guessed that the Bears were moving up for Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. He was wrong.
The Mitchell Trubisky talk brings me to my next point. Pace saw a glaring need at quarterback that off-season. He was finally able to get rid of the infamous Jay Cutler, and said at a press conference at Halas Hall following the season closer in Minneapolis: “We are going to be aggressive and calculated this offseason.” Aggressive is the key word here. Here is another quote from Pace that day when asked about the quarterback position: “I think everything’s on the table right now…It’s free agency, it’s trade, it’s draft.” He also went on to stress that the quarterback is the most important position, and they are going to be aggressive in getting their guy. Aggressive they were. After giving a 3 year, $45 million dollar contract to Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon, it appeared that Pace had his guy and Pace was “fired up” about Glennon being his starting quarterback. That made it all the more surprising when Pace gave up a second round pick and two third round picks in order to get San Francisco’s second overall pick to make sure that no one else was able to get Trubisky. That is what you call aggressive. So now we know that no one really even knew what was going on behind closed doors between the Raiders and the Bears. I knew all along that Pace was going to at least attempt to make a move. Like in the 2017 off-season with the quarterback position, Pace saw a terrible need at the edge rusher position, and I knew in my heart that Pace was not going to let a generational player, like Mack, at a position that was an extremely pressing need just slip through his grasp.
Pace saw an opportunity to take his team to the next level. Before the Mack trade, I believed the Bears were a fringe playoff team: maybe they get in, maybe they don’t. I like to temper my expectations, but this puts Chicago over the hump: the Bears are ready to make the playoffs immediately. No one, and I mean no one, knows the Bears better than Pace and head coach Matt Nagy, and although they refuse to set a bar for their team, this move says it all. Pace and Nagy expect the Bears to make the playoffs. The Bears had a top ten defense last season, and now they have added Roquan Smith through the draft and now Mack via trade. It certainly helps that the rest of those guys are going into their fourth year under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who is quite possibly the best defensive coordinator in the league. The offense that Nagy and new offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich bring to Chicago perfectly suit Trubisky’s talents, when 2017 offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ offense was an awful fit for Trubisky. Pace saw a need for skilled pass catchers after the 2017 season, and went out and got them. He quickly turned the NFL’s worst group of pass catchers into one of the NFL’s best groups. He also saw a hole at left guard after the departure of pro bowler Josh Sitton, and went out and got Iowa center/guard James Daniels in the second round of the draft.
On Friday, Pace and Mack’s agent started working towards a contract agreement. The Bears worked simultaneously with the agent and with the Raiders for a trade agreement through the night until finally reaching a trade agreement and a contract agreement Saturday morning, with the trade becoming official Saturday evening. In the official trade, Chicago received Mack, a 2020 2nd round pick and a conditional 2020 5th round pick. The Raiders received 1st round picks in 2019 & 2020, 2019 6th round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick. The Bears’ defense will be top 5 this season, barring injury, maybe even top 3. Scheme alone will make the Bears’ offense miles better than it has been, and the addition of guys like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will help the development of Mitchell Trubisky, who I am extremely confident will have a breakout season in the best way in 2018. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen make up possibly the best running back duo in football, and Cohen will benefit mightily from Nagy and Helfrich. If you watched the Bears in the preseason, it is curious how little we saw Tarik Cohen, especially with how “giddy” Nagy was to work with him. The Bears are obviously hiding Cohen’s role in this offense until the regular season, and I believe that Cohen will have an awesome season in 2018, and will continue to have great seasons for years to come.
Now let’s discuss the Bears’ season opener: Week 1 Sunday Night Football @ Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. The addition of Mack makes me all the more confident that the Bears can come out on top. Having Mack lineup opposite of Leonard Floyd will not only make life harder for Aaron Rodgers, but it will certainly make life easier for Floyd and the entire Bears pass rush. Teams used to double team or even triple team Bears’ defensive end Akiem Hicks. They will simply not be able to do that anymore. The Bears could rush four guys and still get a bunch of pressure, hits, knockdowns and sacks on not only Rodgers but all opposing quarterbacks. The Packers’ interior offensive line is extremely shaky, so Mack and Floyd coming off the edge will force Rodgers to step up… right into the arms of Hicks, nose tackle Eddie Goldman and Jonathan Bullard/Roy Robertson-Harris (whoever wins that starting job between Bullard and RRH). In fact, the addition of Mack improves the Bears so much that Vegas improved the Bears’ Super Bowl odds from (pre-trade) 100/1 to (post-trade) 40-1. Yes, you read that right. Vegas also improved the Bears’ odds of winning the NFC North from 12-1 to 9-1.
Yes, the Chicago Bears are for real. I’m a Bears fan among many Packers’ fans, and I hear many of them downplaying the effect of Mack. One guy even told me” It doesn’t matter, the offense won’t be good” and all this stuff about how the Packers will always be great and the Bears will never be great. Either those people don’t understand football, or are too scared to admit that their arch rivals to the South are legit. Do not sleep on the Bears anymore. The Monsters of the Midway are back, and there is no way around it.