(670 The Score) First off, let’s give credit where credit’s due: New general manager Ryan Poles is making the Bears his in a hurry.
Pass rusher Khalil Mack, perhaps the crown jewel of his predecessor's tenure at Halas Hall, is headed to the Los Angeles Chargers in a trade. There were dozens of different moves that Poles could've started his offseason with, and he looked at all of them and scoffed. Announcing your presence to the league by re-signing offensive lineman James Daniels at fair market value just doesn’t quite have the same panache. The Great Rebuild began Thursday – I hope you’ve made space in your heart for future late-round picks.
The trade is fine. The Bears only got two draft picks back for Mack – a 2022 second-rounder and a 2023 sixth-rounder – because that’s what teams get for 31-year old pass rushers who eat up huge swaths of cap space while being pretty clearly on the back nine of their careers. Saying Mack is washed is a step too far, but just a step – it’s hard to do anything athletic after 30, especially shedding, you know, multiple offense linemen on every snap. He may have been the best player on the Bears’ defense, but that stopped being the flex people thought it was somewhere toward the end of 2019. Now, instead of grimacing through lower-body injuries on Halas Hall’s outdoor practice fields in December, Mack will have a chance to go compete for a Super Bowl with an ascending Chargers team coached by old friend Brandon Staley. My guess is Bears fans are probably a tad more broken up about this than he is.
Back to Poles, who’s now buried two iconic Bears Twitter memes in as many months. In hindsight, we probably could've seen this coming, as I’m sure plenty of The Most Smug Bears Twitter Accounts You Know will say they did. While there’s realistically no hope for this upcoming season (enjoy!), Poles seems to have his eyes firmly set on 2023, when he’ll have $121 million in cap space to work. One hundred and twenty-one million dollars. That’s like 20 Lake Forest mansions, each retrofitted with their own extremely normal Bears-themed movie theater.
This team will look almost unrecognizable in less than two seasons, which is as much a testament to Poles’ vision as it is the reality of team-building windows in the modern NFL. As one famous sausage king in this city once said, life moves fast, and if you don’t stop to look around, you may miss it. Even if Poles did have the luxury to sit around and see if a defensive core that peaked four years ago could find its way back, what would be the point? The Bears quite literally had the best pass-rushing season in their team’s history last season and they weren’t *close* to sniffing the postseason. An effective pass rush obviously still has tremendous value, but tying an absurdly high percentage of the cap to that ain’t it anymore.
There are surely more moves to come – if I were a Bears defensive player named Eddie, I’d probably leave a voicemail or two on my agent’s phone in the next couple days. You know, just to check in. If I traveled one month back in time to tell you that Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers would be in the NFC North for almost half a decade longer than Mack, you’d have to pick your jaw up off the floor before asking me what kind of sicko uses time travel for that. Breakups always sting, especially when the relationship started off with such a bang (sorry). But that doesn’t make them any less necessary, which, again, is a credit to the vision Poles brings and the conviction he seemingly has to make it happen.
A Bears general manager who not only knows when to cut bait with aging defensive players but also values draft picks? It’s a new, still very cold day in Chicago.
Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.