Chargers acquire Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack in AFC West arms race

Russell Wilson has raised the stakes in the AFC West.

The Los Angeles Chargers acquired three-time All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears in a Thursday agreement, one day after the Denver Broncos landed the Seattle Seahawks’ star QB.

Mack, 31, the 2016 NFL defensive player of the year, has three years remaining on his current contract. The Chargers are expected to send a 2022 second-round draft pick and a 2023 sixth-rounder to the Bears in return for Mack, ESPN reported.

On the surface, Mack could form a lethal combination with Chargers pass rusher Joey Bosa.

Mack has a preexisting relationship with Chargers head coach Brandon Staley. Staley was Mack’s Bears linebackers coach when Chicago acquired him from the Raiders in 2018.

The Chargers’ poor defense in 2021 wasn’t due to a lack of talent, though. Staley wasn’t able to replicate his strong work as Rams defensive coordinator in 2020 in his first season as Chargers head coach in 2021.

Mack also hasn’t hit double digit sacks since 2018.

The Chargers had to do something to try to support star quarterback Justin Herbert, however, in a quarterback-loaded division with the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Wilson, Herbert and the Raiders’ Derek Carr.

New Bears GM Ryan Poles, meanwhile, made his first major move in reshaping Chicago’s look in the NFC North.

Clearing Mack’s cap hit of $26-30 million for the next three years is step one towards a new allocation of resources for an organization whose defense has been undercut for years by poor offense. Quarterback Justin Fields is the Bears’ great hope.