Chargers all but guarantee Khalil Mack's departure with free-agent signings

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos
Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The NFL tampering window opened on Monday and being over the salary cap did not stop the Chargers from making moves. The Chargers have reportedly agreed to deals with Gus Edwards, Will Dissly and Alohi Gilman ahead of the official start of free agency.

That official start to free agency on Wednesday is important as that is the deadline for the Chargers to get under the salary cap threshold and become cap compliant. Before any of the new deals are even added to the books, the Chargers come in at $21.1 million above the salary cap, per Over The Cap.

The Chargers already had to make tough decisions to not only get under the salary cap, but make sure there was enough room for the draft class and any free-agent signings. With these three free-agent signings already being announced, the Chargers are essentially telling us what Khalil Mack's fate is.

Khalil Mack's departure is all but guaranteed after Chargers' free agent moves

The three players that the Chargers signed have average annual values of $13.4 million combined. With how NFL contracts are structured, the cap hits for each player will likely be lower in year one. It is a fair estimation that the three free agents will take up at least $10 million in cap space in 2024 and it might be more.

If those three take up $10 million in space that puts the Chargers are $31.1 million over the cap. The Chargers don't just need to get under the cap by Wednesday, but they need to create enough space by the 2024 NFL Draft to be able to afford the incoming draft class.

Spotrac projects the Chargers' incoming draft pool to cost $13.07 million, meaning the Chargers need to create approximately $44.2 million in cap space to afford the new signings and the incoming draft class. That is without factoring in any kind of in-season budget, which requires even more.

With all this in mind, it is safe to say that the Chargers still need to free up an additional $50 million in cap space. Inevitably cutting/trading Mike Williams will free up $20 million, but that is not enough. The Chargers can create another $10-15 million by extending Keenan Allen and offsetting his cap hit to the extension, but that still leaves another $15-20 million in added space needed.

That is why cutting/trading Khalil Mack is the most obvious move the Chargers could make. Doing so would free up $23.25 million and get the Chargers right where they need to be. If the Chargers were to cut/trade Mack, cut/trade Williams and save $10 million on an Allen extension then the team would be $32.15 million under the cap. With the new signings taking up $10 million and the draft class taking up just over $13 million, the Chargers would still have $9 million or so to play with.

That cannot be done with the other route, which is trading/cutting Joey Bosa. Doing so only frees up $14.38 million, which would force the Chargers to make another move (such as cutting Morgan Fox). And even then, the team would not be giving itself much wiggle room at all.

That is the primary reason why Bosa is safe (his contract could even be restructured to create more space) and Mack is likely going to get the boot.