Chargers now have the perfect backup plan if Khalil Mack is traded

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The biggest decision that the LA Chargers have to make this offseason is around the future of Khalil Mack. Coming off arguably the best year of his career, Mack has the highest cap hit on the entire roster and is entering his age-33 season where regression can absolutely kick in.

Prior to the 2023 season, Mack was viewed as an obvious cut candidate for the Chargers. Mack is only getting older and with the team over the salary cap, it made sense to part ways with him. However, after such an incredible 2023 season, that decision has become much tougher. At the very least, it created a trade market for the veteran edge rusher where the Chargers could maybe recoup some draft assets for him.

Keeping Mack is now at least a possibility thanks to the newfound cap space handed out by the NFL but at the end of the day, the team may still move on for monetary reasons. If the Bolts do move on, they at least now have a good plan B to replace him for a much cheaper cost.

Shaquil Barrett is a great Khalil Mack backup plan for the Chargers

If the Chargers end up moving on from Mack and want to replace him with a veteran then there might not be a better option than Shaquil Barrett. Of course, this is assuming that Barrett would be available for a fair price after being released. If he signs for a more expensive deal then it makes no sense, as the Chargers would just be re-spending the money saved by parting ways with Mack.

Bud Dupree signed a one-year, $3 million contract last offseason so Barrett might be available at a one-year, $6-7 million deal. Even with that contract, the Chargers would be saving over $15 million in cap space by trading/cutting Mack and signing Barrett.

Barrett did not have as good of a season as Mack had last season but he is still a more-than-serviceable edge rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, Barrett finished the 2023 season with 56 quarterback pressures and 21 run stops. In 2022, Mack finished with 59 pressures and 26 run stops, so Barrett's production was around that of 2022 Mack.

And as Mack showed in 2023, pass-rushing numbers can jump year-over-year in the right situation. Barrett would benefit from getting to play next to Joey Bosa (when healthy) and Tuli Tuipulotu. Just like Mack did, Barrett would benefit greatly from the unique pass-rushing combination of Bosa-Tuipulotu-Morgan Fox and himself.

There is a world in which the Chargers can get 80% of what Mack produced last season for a fraction of the cost. Not only that, there is a world in which Mack regresses heavily in his age-33 season, and Barrett ends up as good if not better than him. Barrett is on the older side as well but has nearly two years on Mack, which could end up playing a big part in regression this season.

At the end of the day, the Chargers might just be better with Barrett and whichever draft pick the team adds from the Mack trade (as well as the cap space to spend on other free agents) than just keeping Mack himself.

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