And just like that, the Chicago Bears went from prospective sellers to certain buyers at the NFL trade deadline. There is still time for them to move off some pieces. But their acquisition of Washington Commanders pass rusher Montez Sweat is a slight pivot from their rumored pursuit of teammate Chase Young. It also suggests they are not quite thinking of tearing it down any further.
“Montez is a huge addition to our team,” Bears general manager Ryan Poles said, per Larry Mayer of Bears.com on October 31. “He is not is not only a great player but a great person. We expect him to help elevate our defense.”
Bears Trade for Commanders’ Montez Sweat, Keep Jaylon Johnson
We had to wait and see, of course since anything could have happened before the deadline.
But adding Sweat should help juice the Bears’ pass rush which ranks last in the NFL with 10 sacks. Sweat had 1.5 sacks against the Bears in Week 5.
— NFL (@NFL) October 6, 2023
He has 6.5 sacks in eight games this season. That puts him on pace to smash his 8.0-sack mark from last season and career-high mark of 9.0 in 2020. He joins an EDGE room headlined by Yannick Ngakoue and includes free-agent pickups, DeMarcus Walker and Rasheem Green.
Sweat currently ranks as the NFL’s 56th-ranked edge rusher, per Pro Football Focus. That’s seemingly hardly worth the second-round pick it took to acquire him.
His 35.5 career sacks rank 22nd since he entered the league as a No. 26 overall pick in 2019, per Stathead. Again, that may not seem noteworthy. But there have only been 23 players with at least 35 sacks in that span.
Sweat also graded out as the No. 21 overall edge rusher last season.
Bears Choose Montez Sweat Over Chase Young
He has missed just seven games total in his career, all of which came during the 2021 season. That alone could be a reason why he was more appealing to the Bears than teammate Chase Young to whom they were also linked. Sweat missed five games after he broke his jaw. And two more after losing his brother to gun violence.
Young set his career-high for sacks (7.5) as a rookie in 2020. He has missed no fewer than seven games in any season since making 15 starts that same season.
Sweat is also the superior run-stopper. He grades out as a No. 3 EDGE in run defense this season compared to No. 110 for Young. That has been an important factor for the Bears this past offseason and at the end of the preseason during roster cuts.
This move should help several players directly.
It should elevate Ngakoue, as well as unlock Walker’s versatility to play inside and outside along the defensive front. This is also a boon for the Bears secondary which has naturally had to cover longer than other units thanks to the lack of a consistent push up front. And, thanks to his size (6-foot-6, 262 pounds) and ability to play the run, he doesn’t need to come off the field.
Bears Secondary Staying Together
The other major headline surrounding the Bears at the deadline is cornerback Jaylon Johnson staying put, per Jordan Schulz of Bleacher Report. Johnson requested a trade after contract negotiations broke down. Rumors linked several playoff-contending teams teams to the corner.
Johnson doesn’t have the turnover numbers that are most often associated with the top players at his position. But he also proves his worth in other ways.
Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Johnson will not engage in further negotiations.
That sets the Bears up for a rather contentious situation this offseason when he will hit free agency. They will have the franchise tag at their disposal at that time, though, giving them some control. But at that price tag – roughly $19.5 million, per Over The Cap – they surely prefer to get a contract finalized.
Still, trading for Sweat always seemed like a bid to build up this roster. Subtracting Johnson would be counterintuitive.
Now, they can continue this season and their evaluation of the remaining players held over from the previous regime. That includes quarterbacks Justin Fields and Tyson Bagen who might get more consistent support from the defense.