The narrative around Khalil Mack and his first two seasons with the Bears is, and should be, overwhelmingly positive. Despite producing only 8.5 sacks in 2019, Mack remains the heartbeat of the Bears' defense.
But with such a dominant player like Mack comes a sometimes crippling long-term deal. General manager Ryan Pace signed Mack to a six-year, $141 contract upon his arrival in Chicago, and in an offseason that has the Bears facing salary-cap difficulties, Mack's deal was recently dubbed the team's worst contract.
He's the highest-paid defensive player in the history of the league, and the Bears have won zero playoff games since they handed him that contract before the 2018 season.
That isn't Mack's fault, but for that money, you have to be transcendent. He has 21 sacks in 30 games as a Bear, which is good but not great. And the Chicago defense took a big step backward statistically in 2019.
What's most concerning is the 2014 first-round pick wasn't even expensive the last two years. But he'll account for more than $26 million against the cap in each of the next three seasons, with Chicago only able to get out of the third year with a $12 million dead-cap charge. Not ideal considering Mack will be 29 next month.
One of the biggest complications with Mack's contract is the situation the Bears are facing at quarterback. Remember: they acquired Mack with the assumption they'd have Mitchell Trubisky on his rookie deal for four of the six seasons of Mack's deal. Just two seasons later, the Bears are expected to be in the veteran quarterback market this March.
If Trubisky continues to disappoint, and the Bears don't land a reasonably-priced alternative in free agency or the 2020 NFL Draft, dark days may lie ahead. Part of the reason why the Raiders traded Mack, to begin with, was because of the big money they committed to quarterback Derek Carr. It's nearly impossible to have two players with a cap-hit north of $25 million on the roster at the same time.
With the way quarterback salaries are trending, if you don't have the rookie-contract advantage, a non-quarterback contract like Mack's can cause more harm than good.
Khalil Mack's contract dubbed Bears' worst entering 2020 offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago