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A Scout’s Take on the Bears’ NFL Trade Deadline Decisions

Greg Gabriel has some thoughts on the Bears trade moves and non-moves.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Chicago Bears Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

I'm having another one of those opinionated types of days…

Much has happened in the last few days concerning our favorite topic, and that is, of course, the Chicago Bears. They were supposedly in on a big trade for a defensive end (Chase Young), then backed out. Corner Jaylon Johnson couldn't get a contract extension done to his liking and asked and was given permission to seek a trade. And last, the Bears did make a big trade for a defensive end, but not for the player many thought they would be after. The defensive end the Bears traded for was Washington's Montez Sweat. Sweat, in my opinion, is a much better player than Young.

My thoughts on all of this.

Jaylon Johnson

Johnson has been a mainstay in the Bears secondary since he was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He is easily the best cover guy the Bears have in their secondary, and they would love to sign him to an extension.

Reportedly (according to Johnson), the Bears and Johnson's representatives worked on negotiating an extension last week. When nothing got done, Johnson asked to be traded, and the Bears front office gave him permission to seek such a trade. Basically, what that means is Johnson's agents can call teams and try to find out if he can get a contract done, and if so, would they be interested in making a trade with the Bears for Johnson.

This is a very common negotiation tactic and happens often around the League. Just recently, the 49ers' receiver, Deebo Samuel, and the Colts' running back, Johnathan Taylor, used that same tactic when they couldn't get a contract resolved. In both cases, a contract eventually got done to everyone's liking.

Of course, with many Bears fans, Johnson asking for a trade equaled a trade was going to be made, and they were in an uproar criticizing General Manager Ryan Poles. What the fans didn't know is Poles knew a trade was never going to happen because there was no team in the NFL that was going to pay Johnson what he was asking.

Yesterday at 9:35 AM, I got a call from a very well-known and accurate NFL "Insider." The first thing he said to me was, "Do you know what Jaylon Johnson is looking for?" I told him no, but I assumed it was a very high figure. He said the word around the League is that he is looking for a contract similar to what the Cowboys' Travon Diggs received this summer.

From Johnson's point of view, that is understandable. Diggs and Johnson were drafted one slot apart in the 2020 Draft. Johnson was the 50th pick, and Diggs was 51. They both have been starters since their rookie years. After that, the similarities end.

Johnson has been a good player but not close to being as good as Diggs. Diggs has been a two-time Pro Bowler, and in 2021, he was first-team All-NFL. In '21, he also led the League in interceptions. He also has recorded 18 interceptions in his career. Not only has Diggs been productive, but he has also been durable, having not missed a game in the last three seasons.

Johnson, on the other hand, has yet to play a full season. As a rookie in 2020, he missed three games. In 2021, he missed two games, and last year he missed six. To date this season, he has missed two games. As for interceptions, until ten days ago, Jaylon only had one pick in 3.5 seasons. Last week, he had two picks to increase his total to three. The math is easy: Diggs has produced 15 more interceptions over the same span of their career. When negotiating a contract, production and durability are a huge part of the equation.

Not only was Johnson asking for a huge contract, but the Bears let it be known that a trade would not be cheap. In another phone call I received yesterday, an NFC team employee told me that Poles wanted two Day-2 picks for Johnson in a trade. Whether or not that meant one in 2024 and one in 2025, I do not know, but the price was going to be high.

In the end, nothing happened as no team was going to pay Johnson what he was asking, nor were they going to give up two draft picks. Now, Jaylon Johnson is a Bear for the rest of the 2023 season. My gut feeling is just like with Samual and Taylor, a deal will get done. Johnson's reps quickly found out that their contractual demands were out of line with what the League felt Jaylon was worth. Much of the leverage they thought they had is no longer there.

Montez Sweat

Last Friday, Pro Football Talk reported that the Bears were close to making a trade for Washington defensive end Chase Young. As I wrote here on Saturday, there were risks involved with Young because of his extremely serious injury he suffered in 2021 that kept him out much of the 2022 season.

Sunday on the Fox Pre-Game show, Jay Glazer reported that the Bears were no longer interested in acquiring Young. Being that Jay and I have been friends going back to his days as a Giants beat reporter, I sent him a text asking him what happened. He replied that the Bears couldn't get all the pertinent medical information that would make them feel good about making a trade. Thus, they backed out.

Yesterday morning, the Tribune's Brad Biggs posted that the Bears were close to making a trade for a DE. Within about an hour, it was reported the Bears had traded for Montez Sweat, the Commanders defensive end opposite Chase Young.

Washington, after giving both of their defensive tackles (Johnathan Allen, Daron Payne) huge contracts in the last few years, were in no position to also pay Young and Sweat. Most figured one of the two would be traded. As it turned out, both were traded, with Sweat going to the Bears yesterday morning and Young to the 49ers just before the deadline yesterday afternoon.

What are the Bears getting in Sweat? In my opinion, he is a better player than Young. He is tall, long, and a very fast and athletic edge and has also been very durable. In his five seasons, he has only missed six games, and that was in 2021 with a fractured jaw. Unlike Young, he has had no serious knee injuries.

Sweat has had very consistent production ever since he came into the League. In the 67 games he played, he has recorded 35.5 sacks, registered 197 total tackles, and has nine forced fumbles. Not only that, but he has proven to be a solid leader and presence in the locker room. His addition will help the Bears' anemic pass rush and will also prevent Yannick Ngakoue from being constantly double-teamed on pass downs.

There is a concern with the trade and that is Sweat is in the final year of his contract, and unless an extension is done soon, he will become a free agent in March. That said, I feel very confident that before the Bears made the trade, they received assurances from Sweat's representatives that a deal could be done. If that doesn't happen, the trade becomes a huge blunder for the Bears Front Office, something they don't need after the Chase Claypool fiasco. Today, the Chicago Bears are a better football team than they were 48 hours ago.

Yes, the price the Bears had to pay was high (a second-round pick), but Sweat is only 27 years old, so he is just hitting the prime of his career, and getting at least five more strong seasons should not be an issue. The player the Bears could have drafted with that pick will not be as good a player as Sweat.

Some fans posted their anger on X with the trade, complaining that this trade helps Coach Eberflus keep his job. These are some awfully dumb comments, as it's the job of the Bears' front office to give their Head Coach every opportunity to succeed.