DENVER (AP) — With his league-rattling trade from the Oakland Raiders to the Chicago Bears, Khalil Mack cashed in with a new six-year, $141 million extension that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.
He’s still second fiddle to Von Miller, though.
Miller was voted the league’s best edge rusher in the latest Associated Press position rankings, earning seven first-place votes in balloting of 10 AP football writers. The three other first-place votes went to Mack.
The star Broncos linebacker “is simply the best, as the Seahawks were reminded in the season opener,” said AP’s Dave Campbell, based in Minneapolis.
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Miller, who had four quarterback hits, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in wrecking Seattle’s game plan in Denver’s 27-24 season-opening win, scored 97 points in the 10-points-to-one system. That’s four more than Mack and one point better than Tom Brady, who edged out Aaron Rodgers 96-93 in the quarterback rankings last week.
“The NFL’s sack master finds a way to get to the quarterback, even when he’s double-teamed,” said New York-based Dennis Waszak Jr., who also ranked Miller No. 1. “He’s quick, strong, versatile and sometimes unstoppable.”
Added New York-based Barry Wilner, “Yes, he might also get the nod as the best outside linebacker in the game. That’s how versatile and talented Miller is. He makes the Orange Crush go.”
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Although “no one can match the former Super Bowl MVP when it comes to rushing off the edge with speed,” Bay Area-based Josh Dubow said, “Mack is the highest-paid defensive player for a reason,” so he ranked Mack ahead of Miller.
“Just look at his dominant stats from his four years in Oakland,” Dubow said, “Or his first game in Chicago.”
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Mack made an immediate impact in his Bears debut, dominating the Packers last Sunday night until a gimpy Rodgers, who was carted off with a knee injury in the first half, returned after halftime to rally Green Bay from a 20-point deficit for a 24-23 win.
“Mack is the type of game-wrecking talent that teams only dream of having. Unless you’re the Oakland Raiders, who decided they needed to part ways with him,” Waszak said. “Mack paid off immediately for the Bears by forcing two turnovers in the span of six plays in Chicago’s opener at Green Bay.”
Mack had a 27-yard pick-6 and strip-sacked backup QB DeShone Kizer in the red zone.
“Hugely questionable decision for the Raiders to get rid of him in his prime,” said Washington-based Howard Fendrich, who ranked Mack the best pass rusher in the game. “The Bears got themselves a superstar.”
“His tour de force in the season opener at Green Bay, without any training camp or preseason, shows why Mack could be worth every penny Chicago is paying him,” Wilner said.
Philadelphia-based Rob Maaddi said that what separates Miller is “his Super Bowl MVP award” for strip-sacking Cam Newton twice in Denver’s win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.
What Mack has that Miller doesn’t is a Defensive Player of the Year award, something Teresa Walker of Nashville thinks could change this year if last week was any indication of the year Miller could have playing alongside rookie Bradley Chubb, the fifth overall pick in the draft.
“Miller gets the nod over Khalil Mack thanks to a season opener that was simply amazing,” Walker said. “If Miller keeps this up, he should join Mack as a Defensive Player of the Year.”
Last year, Miller was the hands-down winner in outside linebacker rankings and Mack the runaway winner in defensive end balloting. This year, the AP put pass rushers together in the edge rusher category.
The Los Angeles Chargers’ Joey Bosa was a distant third, followed by Arizona’s Chandler Jones, who led the league with 17 sacks last season and whom Dallas-based Schuyler Dixon calls “one of the most consistent threats in the game.”
“Bosa’s absence was felt in a Week 1 loss to K.C.,” said New York-based Simmi Buttar, noting Bosa has 23 sacks in 28 career games. Bosa also will miss Sunday’s game at Buffalo because of a bone bruise in his left foot.
Houston’s J.J. Watt at No. 5 and the Jaguars’ Calais Campbell at No. 6 usually rush more from the interior. The Vikings’ Everson Griffen was seventh, followed by the Saints’ Cameron Jordan, the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram, and the Browns’ Myles Garrett, the top overall pick in last year’s draft.
Also receiving votes: DeMarcus Lawrence of the Cowboys, Justin Houston of the Chiefs, Terrell Suggs of the Ravens, Vic Beasley of the Falcons, Cameron Wake of the Dolphins, Ryan Kerrigan of Washington and Carlos Dunlap of the Bengals. T.J. Watt of the Steelers and Yannick Ngakoue of the Jaguars each received one vote.
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