Khalil Mack's record-setting 2023 for Chargers nearly never happened

Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots
Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots / Kathryn Riley/GettyImages

There have been very few bright spots in the Chargers' 2023 season. Perhaps the brightest of them all has been Khalil Mack, who is having the best season of his entire career in his 10th season at 32 years old.

Mack set a new Chargers record with six sacks in one game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 4, and has parlayed that into hitting a career-high with 15 sacks through 12 games. Mack is currently on pace to finish with 21 sacks on the season; he would become the fourth player in NFL history to record 20 or more sacks in his 30s, and would become the second to do it at 32 or older.

The 2023 season has been an undeniable success for Mack and the craziest thing of all isn't his stats, his age, or his record-setting performances. It is the fact that this season almost never even happened.

Khalil Mack contemplated retirement after Chargers' AFC Wild Card loss to Jaguars

The Athletic's Daniel Popper revealed in his latest piece that Khalil Mack thought about retiring after the Chargers blew a 27-0 lead in the AFC Wild Card Game last season.

"'I didn’t feel like I affected the game the way I wanted to, or the way that I know I’m capable of,' Mack said.

Coach Brandon Staley and edge rushers coach Giff Smith gave Mack some time to reflect early in the offseason.

'I contemplated hanging them up, man,' Mack said this week."

Popper went on to detail how Mack's wife, Brianna Perry, did not agree with Mack's contemplation about retiring. Thus, he returned to chase the one thing that has alluded him in his potential Hall of Fame career: a Super Bowl ring.

Every Chargers fan is obviously glad that Mack decided to return and put together an All-Pro-caliber season for the Bolts. But this does make his future with the team much more interesting. Before the season, it was assumed that this would be Mack's last year in the powder blue. After all, after restructuring his contract, Mack's cap hit for the 2024 season ballooned to $38.5 million in 2024, per Over The Cap.

With that cap hit at 33 years old — and the fact that the Chargers are well over the projected 2024 salary cap already — it was safe to assume that Mack would be cut for salary-cap space. But after a potential 20-sack season, the Chargers' decision just got much tougher.

There are other ways the team can free up money to get under the salary cap, but does the team really want to pay over $38 million for a 33-year-old who could regress at any moment? And will Mack have the same drive after dominating the 2023 season and potentially not even tasting the playoffs?

There is a world in which Mack himself forces the issues. Mack is very obviously hungry for a Super Bowl and there are teams that can provide him a better chance at winning one than the Chargers. After such a dominant year, Mack himself might be okay with getting cut as he knows he could net an expensive one-year deal elsewhere. Suddenly, the situation has flipped.

The 2024 offseason is going to be a compelling one for Mack after what was a secretly compelling offseason in 2023. All we know is this: fans should enjoy watching Mack disrupt opposing quarterbacks while they still can.

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