2022 Offseason Outlook: Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, and the Pass-Rushers

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2022 Offseason Outlook: Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, and the Pass-Rushers

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears’ 2021 season is one we don’t mind leaving in the rear-view mirror. 

With that being said, we’re looking ahead to 2022 and beyond. The Ryan Poles Era is underway. And with a new-look front office and a fresh set of eyes at head coach, a clean slate is at everyone’s fingertips. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a position-by-position look at the team heading into the offseason for a franchise that should be excited about changes on the horizon under its new leadership.

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running backs, Wide receivers, Tight ends, Offensive line

Today: Pass rushers

WHO’S UNDER CONTRACT?

(Ages in parenthesis)

Khalil Mack (31) through 2024, Robert Quinn (31) through 2024, Trevis Gipson (24) through 2023, Jeremiah Attaochu (29) through 2023

If Ryan Poles doesn’t want to rock the boat upon arrival, then keeping Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn as bookend pass-rushers is a strong place to start. Both have shown they could play in 4-3 defenses (and make the lives of quarterbacks a living hell while doing so). Trevis Gipson, however, has yet to to play in this type of scheme. And Jeremiah Attaochu is more of a pass-rushing outside linebacker. It will be interesting to see how many of these players are still around when training camp kicks off in June.

EXITING FREE AGENTS

Bruce Irvin (34), Cassius Marsh (29)

We’ll never forget Cassius Marsh’s contributions to Bears Twitter:

WHO COULD BE CUT BEFORE THE LEAGUE NEW YEAR BEGINS?

If the Bears were really into clearing the decks and creating oodles of cap space, trading Mack and Quinn would be on the table. Doing so after June 1 would clear the most space while simultaneously softening the dead money blow. Moving Mack would create $17.75 million in cap space, while dealing Quinn would clear $12.9 million. But, once again, I must point out that those are post-June 1 moves.  Parting ways now would create just $6.15 million (via a Mack cut/trade) and $4.425 million (via a Quinn cut/trade).

In other words, it really isn’t prudent to pull that plug right now.

You can browse through some more feasible cut options here:

Cap numbers via OverTheCap.com

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT FITS

How Gipson performs in a new scheme after spending the lat two seasons as a pass-rushing OLB is unknown. With that in mind, perhaps Arden Key makes sense as a rotational pass-rusher option.

Key, 25, was in on just 35 percent of the 49ers’ snaps last year and got 19 percent of San Francisco’s special teams plays. And with the Bears hiring Richard Hightower (who was coaching 49ers special teamers last year) perhaps Key is a possible target. But I still come back to thinking it is impossible to imagine the Bears spending at this position.

PFF’s TOP-5 DRAFT-ELIGIBLE PROSPECTS

⇒   Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
⇒   Kayvon Thibodeax, Oregon
⇒   George Karlaftis, Purdue
⇒   Travon Walker, Georgia
⇒   David Ojabo, Michigan

As is the case with the blockers, the top-end of the pass-rusher prospect market won’t feature any of the players above when the Bears first go on the clock. And if Mack and Quinn are still around, good luck pitching me on using early picks on a pass-rusher. Of course, none of this is to say I would be against doing so later.

In fact, I’d probably encourage the Bears to use late-round draft capital to unearth a developmental pass-rusher type. Someone who could be this front office’s version of a Gipson or Roy Robertson-Harris.

HOW CAN THE BEARS ADDRESS/UPGRADE THE POSITION?

Good luck upgrading from Quinn (who just set the franchise’s single-season sack record) and Mack ( recognized as the NFL’s second-best defensive player before the 2021 season began).

Even after considering aging curves, contracts, the current state of this team, and its future, addressing this group by selling off Mack and/or Quinn would be a tough pill to swallow. Sure, the Bears could probably trade Mack (or Quinn) … but the optics of trading either (both?) for the sake of being happy with some newfound draft capital and cash savings under the cap wouldn’t look great. I’m open to being open-minded in this situation. After all, the Bears aren’t in a place to be choosy about rebuilding from the ashes of the old regime. So while there is a right way to go about making this kind of move, the Bears should keep in mind that they need to be doing right by Justin Fields’ development when trying to thread that needle.

Remember, friends: just because you can doesn’t mean you should.



Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.