LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Chargers are entering the AFC West’s arms race.
Just on the other side of the ball.
Because with the Denver Broncos adding a potential future Hall of Famer under center this week in quarterback Russell Wilson to join a division that already boasts another possibly Canton-bound quarterback in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, one of the league’s best young passers in the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and the Las Vegas Raiders’ Derek Carr — who owns virtually every passing record in that franchise’s history — opposing defenses need some help. And then some.
Introducing, then, a three-time first-team All-Pro edge rusher who has also been to six Pro Bowls and was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2016 — Khalil Mack.
With the Chargers on the precipice of acquiring Mack from the Chicago Bears, they are on the verge of putting together the most accomplished set of pass-rushers in the division to combat said signal-callers.
Yeah, the Raiders have Pro Bowl defensive MVP Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. The Chiefs last year boasted Frank Clark and Melvin Ingram III. The Broncos counter with Bradley Chubb and, well, TBD, as future Hall of Famer Von Miller has been making noise about returning to the Mile High City after helping the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl.
But pairing Mack with Joey Bosa? Yeah, the next wave of signings in the AFC West might have to be at offensive tackle.
Over the last five seasons, Mack (221) and Bosa (207) both rank in the top four in total defensive pressures, per ESPN Stats & Information, behind Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald (291) and New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (253). Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Ngakoue both also have 207 defensive pressures in that time.
Plus, Bosa’s 47.5 sacks since 2017 are tied for sixth in the NFL and are one more than Mack’s 46.5, which rank 10th most.
One more thing — both Mack and Bosa have (checks notes) 12 strip sacks apiece over the past five seasons, tied for sixth most in that time frame.
Yes, even as Mack, who turned 31 on Feb. 22, has slowed a tad since the Raiders traded him to the Bears amid his lengthy holdout in 2018.
He was limited to six sacks in seven games last season before undergoing season-ending foot surgery in November, and his effectiveness as a pass rusher was down. His pass rush win rate has dropped from 21.2% in 2017 to 18.6% in 2018 to 19.6% in 2019 to 17.6% in 2020 to 12.9% this past season.
Remember how fast he came out of the gate with the Bears against the Green Bay Packers in the 2018 opener — fresh start, change of scenery and all that?
After dominating the Packers on national television to the tune of a strip-sack, a fumble recovery and a 27-yard pick-six in his Bears debut, he finished with 12.5 sacks and was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year to Donald. Indeed, that was the only year he had a double-digit sack season in Chicago after signing a six-year, $141 million contract in September 2018. According to Schefter’s report, the Chargers will take on Mack’s full contract, owing him $17.75 million in 2022, $22.9 million in 2023 and $23.25 million in 2024.
If and when the deal comes to fruition, he will become the only former DPOY named first-team All-Pro three times to be traded twice.
Now he’ll get to face the Raiders, who made him the No. 4 overall pick of the 2014 draft, twice a year. Yes, he did throw up an “O,” presumably for “Oakland,” after sacking Carr in Las Vegas, after all.
— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) October 11, 2021
Good for the Chargers initially, bad for the rest of the AFC West.