Trade rumors had been surrounding Mack for the past couple of weeks, as he held out from Oakland’s team activities this summer in hopes of negotiating a long-term contract. Neither side was willing to give in, so the Raiders decided to start shopping their star player. Several teams were interested in acquiring Mack’s services, but the Bears were the only team to meet Oakland’s high demands.
The trade is one of blockbuster proportions, as Mack is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has 40.5 sacks over the past four seasons, and is the only player in league history to be named a first-team All-Pro at two separate positions in the same year.
What exactly does Mack bring to the table, though? Let’s take a look at some of the things that the newest member of the Bears offers.
Instant pass rushing improvements
To be blunt, Mack is one of the most well-rounded and polished pass rushers in football. He doesn’t have a weakness.
Mack has an incredible blend of athleticism, strength, and technique that is arguably unmatched by any other existing edge rusher. He has several effective pass-rushing moves in his arsenal, making him a threat no matter what situation he is in. Mack understands the concept of getting inside leverage on offensive linemen, and he is able to do so on a consistent basis. When combining that with his impressive anchor, his upper-body strength, and his ability to convert speed to power, he’s able to throw offensive linemen off balance and dominate them.
Mack is also incredibly knowledgeable about how offensive linemen play the game. He’s able to quickly diagnose the best way to get to the quarterback given the angles at which linemen are blocking, and he knows how to attack them based off of how balanced or unbalanced their frame is.
In a sense, Mack is like a viper coming off of the edge. He excels at innately understanding his opponents, and he knows exactly when and where to strike when he senses vulnerability.
A needed star
Bears general manager Ryan Pace was incredibly active this off-season in surrounding Mitchell Trubisky with weapons in the passing game. New additions like Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel figure to have major roles in Chicago’s offense this year. As much as they improved their offense, Chicago failed to add any substance at outside linebacker.
Merely 24 hours ago, it was unknown who would start at the edge rusher position alongside Leonard Floyd. Some combination of Sam Acho, Kylie Fitts, Aaron Lynch and Isaiah Irving was projected to get playing time opposite the Bears’ 2016 first-round pick. Despite the team’s additions, it seemed as though their relatively tame pass-rushing unit would prevent them from making the playoffs.
That changes dramatically with Mack’s acquisition.
Not only did the Bears address their most dire roster weakness, but they did so by adding arguably the premier player at that position. Mack alone turns their edge rushing group from a weakness into a strength. A true generational talent, he’s a safe bet to surpass a minimum of 10 sacks as long as he stays on the field.
A defensive boost
Trading for Mack gives the Bears a blue-chip player at the second-most important position in football, and it brings out the best in the rest of their defense.
Floyd, who presumably would have seen several double-team blocks had the Bears not traded for Mack, should now see several one-on-one situations. Akiem Hicks gets to partake in numerous stunts with both Mack and Floyd, which is bound to give him opportunities to get sacks of his own as Mack causes quarterbacks to scramble.
Chicago’s secondary as a whole is also boosted tremendously by Mack’s presence. A strong pass rush typically means more urgent and risky passes by quarterbacks, which should give the likes of Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos many chances to make plays on the ball.
Roquan Smith also benefits astronomically from having Mack lining up on the outside. The speedy Smith plays at his best when he’s in space. Having another gap-eater like Mack who attracts double-team blocks gives the rookie golden opportunities to take direct angles to ball carriers without having to worry about shedding blocks on his own.
Mack is a special player whose mere existence assists the Bears in the long run. If he continues to dominate offensive lines in Chicago like he did with the Raiders, then the Bears defense is in an elite, comfortable place.
Jacob Infante is a Chicago Bears and NFL Draft writer at SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron. He also covers the NFL Draft for USA Today SMG’s Draft Wire. He can be reached through Twitter @jacobinfante24 or e-mailed at email@example.com.