A year after making a move to add a wide receiver ahead of the NFL trade deadline, the Chicago Bears are attempting to boost the pass rush, a splashy move general manager Ryan Poles has to be hoping has a long-term payoff.
The Bears have traded a second-round draft pick to the Washington Commanders for defensive end Montez Sweat, a deal first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Sweat, who leads the Commanders with 6 1/2 sacks, immediately becomes the best edge defender for the Bears, who are last in the NFL with 10 as a team. The Bears can negotiate with him on a contract extension or use the franchise tag to secure him before the start of free agency. They are projected to have around $100 million in salary-cap room, so space to pay Sweat will not be an issue.
It would not be surprising if the Bears are already working on a new contract for Sweat, with the goal of having him be secure about his future with the organization when he arrives.
The question now is what happens with cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who received permission overnight to seek a trade before the 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Bears could recoup draft capital used to acquire Sweat or potentially keep Johnson and continue to discuss an extension. One theory is the Bears granted Johnson permission to seek a trade in order to gauge what type of contract he could get from other teams.
The 27-year-old Sweat, a first-round pick from Mississippi State, has been the most consistent edge rusher for the Commanders for the past three seasons as a knee injury sidelined Chase Young. Young has bounced back this season but concerns about the health of his right knee — he tore the ACL and had a ruptured patellar tendon in 2021 — made Sweat the more sought-after player as Washington sorted through options to trade one or both. Questions about the stability of Young’s knee probably made Sweat a more coveted option for Poles.
The Bears attempted to address their pass rush at the outset of training camp by signing veteran Yannick Ngakoue to a $10.5 million, one-year contract. He’s been disappointing so far and hasn’t had a quarterback hit in the last three games. Ngakoue is tied with weak-side linebacker T.J. Edwards for the team lead in sacks with two.
Bears defensive ends have combined for 13 quarterback hits (DeMarcus Walker has five) and five sacks.
Securing Sweat makes this a more sound investment than the gamble Poles made this time last year when he traded a second-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for wide receiver Chase Claypool. The goal was to provide developing quarterback Justin Fields with more help with Darnell Mooney, but a knee injury sidelined Claypool and he struggled to fit into the offense.
Claypool finished with 14 catches for 140 yards in seven games, and despite everyone saying all the right things about the former Notre Dame standout in the offseason, he didn’t fit in this season either. Poles eventually cut his losses, sending the receiver and a seventh-round pick in 2025 to the Miami Dolphins for a sixth-round pick in 2025.
“You’re always disappointed in this situation, and it’s definitely something I take ownership of,” Poles told WMVP-AM 1000 after the trade. “Last year, in the situation we were in, we wanted to add another receiver to the offense, not only to help us be more productive but also to help Justin take the next step. The right thought process was there, and I feel comfortable with that. Unfortunately it didn’t work out and we were hoping for him to be a little bit more productive and be someone that could help us take it to the next level.”
That same thought process was in play here and with Sweat extended, the Bears aren’t making as big of a gamble. Plus, they’re getting a player with a greater track record of success.
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