Why the Chargers would do this trade
The goal of shedding salary cap dollars to give the Los Angeles Chargers some financial wiggle room cannot be overstated. The team is projected to be over ($40 million) over the 2024 NFL salary cap. And if the team is looking to sign rookies, add players to positions that are in need of depth, and have enough left over for emergency signings through the course of the season, they will need to free up about $60 million. Shedding $23 million with one player is a huge step in the right direction.
It's always a plus to get draft picks for a player. The Rams front office was willing to trade All-Pro DB Jalen Ramsey for a third-round pick in 2023 and TE Hunter Long. So a Chargers trade of Khalil Mack for a third-round pick in 2024 plus up to two more picks in 2025 should not be scoffed at. The Rams added NT Kobie Turner in Round 3 and WR Puka Nacua in Round 5 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Sometimes draft picks can yield league-leading rookies.
The Charges have an additional incentive to trade Mack to the LA Rams (over cutting him) in that they control his destiny. The Rams compete in the NFC Western Division, and as such are unlikely to face the Chargers for several years, and are not in direct competition for one of seven playoff berths. That matters when considering the destination for a solid player like Khalil Mack.
Why the Rams would do this trade
If you believe like I do that the LA Rams have a strong likelihood of competing in Super Bowl LIX, then trading for an elite pass rusher is almost a prerequisite for the team's roster this season. The Rams learned that veteran leadership is critical for winning in the post-season, and the presence of Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. in the 2022 NFL Playoffs certainly helped the team win four games that led to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Khalil Mack, while he may need some rearranging on the Rams defense to be ultimately effective, brings a whole lot of pain when he gets to an opposing quarterback. If 2024 tracks as well as 2023, Mack could put up 20.0 or more quarterback sacks when lined up with DT Aaron Donald and NT Kobie Turner. Adding his sack total to that of the entire Rams defense immediate catapults the team from the bottom third in the league to the number one spot.
The Rams have high expectations for Kobie Turner in 2024. The same can be said for Byron Young in 2024 as well. But imagine the firepower if the teams could line up Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald, Kobie Turner, Desjuan Johnson/Michael Hoecht, and Byron Young on the same defensive front?
The Rams may truly appreciate the value of draft picks after doing so well in the 2023 NFL Draft. But an opportunity to trade for Khalil Mack could persuade the Rams back to the negotiating table.