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No need to Sweat - Making sense of the Chicago Bears’ latest blockbuster deal

An awful lot of people — including national “experts” — are either panicking about or clowning on the “surprise” deadline trade pulled off by the Chicago Bears. And they’re all wrong.

NFL: Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout all my life as a Chicago Bears fan, and as a casual writer, I’ve seen it all—unrelenting joy, widespread panic, and unparalleled fury. With the occasional “Whoa is me” sprinkled in when major moves are made—a scene and an audience that’s always hard to please.

Lately, there have been a lot of hot — and I mean HOT — takes on the Chicago Bears’ decision to pull the trigger on acquiring Montez Sweat for their 2024 second-round pick, particularly since that trade has yet to see a corresponding contract extension announced for their latest grand prize.

To the lot of all those hot takes - oh, Pah-Leaze.

Never mind all the unnecessary calls for GM Ryan Poles’ job. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and this is while conceding that I had voiced my fair share of displeasure with some of his decisions. As I have maintained, for every screw-up he’s committed, he deserves praise when he gets it right. I firmly believe he got this trade for Montez Sweat just right.

For more context, let’s start by comparing the Montez Sweat trade to other deals for young defensive ends in recent years.

The Overall Price for Montez Sweat, in terms of Trades, is an incredible value.

I’m going to compare this deal — just one 2nd round pick (2024) — to the recent deals for edge defenders Bradley Chubb (2022) and Frank Clark (2019). The total trades for Chubb and Clark are below.

Frank Clark

Seattle Seahawks received:

  • 2019 1st round pick
  • 2020 2nd round pick
  • 2019 3rd round pick swap between Seattle and Kansas City

Kansas City Chiefs received:

  • DE Frank Clark

The Seattle Seahawks originally slapped the exclusive rights franchise tag on Frank Clark in a bid to keep their best young pass rusher for what was left of their Legion of Boom defense; however, per Seahawks GM John Schneider in this piece from the Seattle Times, that all changed when Dallas Cowboys star edge DeMarcus Lawrence reset the market with his $21M per year average. The Seahawks were already having a tough time keeping their star players happy financially.

At that point, any attempt to budget for Frank Clark went out the window. They also were in the midst of a significant salary cap crunch. This turned the Seahawks from buyers into sellers.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs were looking for a much-needed presence on their defense to wreak havoc on opposing QBs. Once word was received, Frank Clark was available in the trade market, Chiefs GM Brett Veach contacted John Schneider and pounced on the opportunity. The trade was finalized on April 23rd, 2019, and a new 5-year $104M contract was signed hours after the deal was made. The Chiefs would go on to win Super Bowl LIV.

Bradley Chubb

Denver Broncos received:

  • 2023 1st round pick
  • 2024 4th round pick
  • RB Chase Edmunds

Miami Dolphins received:

  • OLB Bradley Chubb
  • 2025 5th round pick

This situation is a closer comparison considering it’s more recent — 2022 vs. 2019 — and that this deal was struck at the 2022 NFL Trade Deadline. The roles, most certainly, were close to being in reverse. The Denver Broncos were on the verge of cleaning out their coaching staff (again) and needed to recoup premium draft assets after their (still) ludicrous decision to trade for QB Russell Wilson. Which likely happened only because the Green Bay Packers said “no” to dealing Aaron Rodgers that offseason.

Fast forward to the date when Bradley Chubb was shipped off to South Beach. Almost one full calendar year before the Chicago Bears acquired Montez Sweat on Halloween of this year. It also took two days before a new contract between Bradley Chubb and the Miami Dolphins was finalized. He was awarded with a hefty 5-year deal worth $110M.

What’s worth noting for Bradley Chubb is he missed the remainder of the 2019 season following his grade three tear of the ACL for his left knee during week four. In addition, he missed 12 more games between 2020 and 2021 due to various ankle injuries. He was a significant risk, medically speaking, which will play a role in this discussion later on. And despite the risk, both a solid player along with a premium draft pick were sunk into the cost surrendered by the Dolphins, on top of his gigantic contract.

The Dolphins are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. Under Vic Fangio’s command on defense, we’re seeing Bradley Chubb return to his best form. This was a risk absolutely worth taking by Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier.

And now... what was it that the Chicago Bears gave up for Montez Sweat again?

Montez Sweat

Washington Commanders receive:

  • 2024 2nd round pick

Chicago Bears receive:

  • DE Montez Sweat

That’s it. That’s all it took for GM Ryan Poles to secure a premium pass rusher to eventually lock up as a long-term fixture on defense. For an all-too-important position at edge, no less. A player who also possesses proven schematic flexibility between both a 3-4 and a 4-3 base alignment.

The overall production between each player before their respective trades are fairly close as well.

Montez Sweat

  • 67 games
  • 35.5 sacks
  • 81 QB Hits
  • 47 TFLs
  • 9 forced fumbles

Bradley Chubb

  • 49 games
  • 26 sacks
  • 53 QB hits
  • 33 TFLs
  • 6 forced fumbles

Frank Clark

  • 62 games
  • 35 sacks
  • 72 QB hits
  • 35 TFLs
  • 8 forced fumbles

What Montez Sweat does arguably better than either Frank Clark or Bradley Chubb is swatting the ball out of the opposing QB’s hands. He’s been consistent — there’s that word again — when creating splash opportunities for his teammates on defense. There’s something about being a 6-foot-6 and 260+ pound guy that can run a 4.41 forty, which creates unreal matchup issues for any OTs left isolated on an island.

He’s used his freakish athleticism to cause an endless amount of issues against opposing OL coaches around the league. Even while Chase Young was out — and I will definitely talk about him — Montez Sweat didn’t miss a beat when racking up production. Attempting to block any lengthy defensive end who’s literally faster than some wide receivers and defensive backs in the league is a tall task.

Let’s talk accolades. Regarding Frank Clark, he wasn’t named to his first Pro Bowl until 2019 in his first year with the Kansas City Chiefs. He also wasn’t a full-time starter until 2017, when he was on a designated pitch count between his first two seasons in Seattle. Bradley Chubb, like Montez Sweat, was a full-time starter since day one in the pros. Chubb went to his first Pro Bowl in 2020. Montez Sweat has not been named to his first Pro Bowl as of yet.

All three players, when healthy, have been consistent performers in their respective careers. All three were traded when entering their prime as well. Moreso Frank “The Tank” Clark than anyone else, as once he arrived in Kansas City, he simply destroyed offenses. Bradley Chubb, at least when Vic Fangio coaches him, is also an excellent football player. He just has missed far too many games in his career to ignore.

Montez Sweat’s career has been fairly close to both players in that regard, albeit he also played in a defensive line that included four former first-round picks along with himself. Yet, he’s also been a more well-rounded player, as he’s been consistently good as both a pass rusher and run defender. His production with TFLs speaks for itself. For all the PFF fans on here - he ranks 3rd amongst all edge defenders against the run.

The biggest issue most people have with this trade is... there’s currently no contract extension to be announced as of the writing of this article. The level of impatience is extraordinarily high amongst the fanbase. I get it; for this trade to make complete sense, a new long-term deal must be hammered out. Otherwise, why spend a(nother) 2nd round pick on a half-season rental? All previous logic be damned. We will discuss the contract later.

There is one more deal I am sure people are going to bring up. And that is... the deal swung by the San Francisco 49ers to acquire former teammate Chase Young on the same day the Chicago Bears acquired Montez Sweat. The terms of that deal are below.

Chase Young

Washington Commanders receive:

  • 2024 3rd round (supplementary) pick

San Francisco 49ers receive:

  • DE Chase Young

“Oh, a master class by 49ers GM John Lynch once again!” Says many a fan and writer across the United States. Yet... where’s his long-term deal? That, too, doesn’t exist yet. It may not exist yet for a fairly good reason.

Much like Bradley Chubb, Chase Young has missed a lot of time. In all, Chase Young has been able to appear in just 34 career games and has started in 32 of them. As many scouts and evaluators say, “The best ability is availability.” Of course, in a defensive front as loaded as the 49ers are, people will overlook this factor almost intentionally.

In terms of production, here’s Chase Young.

  • 34 games
  • 14 sacks
  • 19 TFLs
  • 26 QB hits
  • 6 forced fumbles

Where Chase Young was named both DROY and a Pro Bowler in 2020, he has struggled to stay on the field enough to justify himself as the former 2nd overall pick of his draft class. He’s looked excellent this season, yet just how much can we trust his right knee past this year? It was not “just” a grade three (complete tear) of his ACL like Bradley Chubb - he also ruptured the patella tendon. That’s about as serious of a knee injury as it gets for any professional athlete.

Then, let’s get back to his actual production. When rushing the passer, he’s fantastic. Yet, much like Montez Sweat, Chase Young has yet to hit double digits in terms of sacks himself. He also doesn’t set the edge as well against the run.

Can we justify the 49ers spending a (very) late third-round pick on a half-season rental? Maybe, if they win it all at the Super Bowl. Even then, to suggest that situation as a complete win would be disingenuous. Much like Bears GM Ryan Poles wants to see Montez Sweat chilling with Staley Da Bear, I am sure 49ers GM John Lynch wants Chase Young hanging out with Sourdough Sam for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, why make that deal for Chase Young?

Now... about that contract situation for Montez Sweat.

The Foundation for a long-term deal exists.

Recently, the Green Bay Packers re-signed their young standout OLB, Rashan Gary, to a 4-year and $107.5M extension. This includes $96M in new money. His production is similar to Montez Sweat’s as a pass rusher, although his 2021 season alone skews the numbers a bit. In that year, he registered 9.5 sacks, 28 QB hits, and 8 TFLs. Otherwise, he hasn’t broken more than 6.0 sacks in any season, although he’s likely to break that number by the end of 2023. He currently has 4.5 sacks for the season.

Considering the per-year average is $24M, that deal is larger than either deal signed by Bradley Chubb or Frank Clark. It also comes down to the amount of total money guaranteed at signing, Gary’s signing bonus was just over $34.6M. I think this is a reasonable starting point for Montez Sweat.

“Oh, but where has the starting point been, ECD?”

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune offered insight into that situation in his weekly Q’s & A’s article.

In a perfect world, the Bears would have finalized a new contract with Sweat before completing the trade with the Washington Commanders on Tuesday. However, a source with knowledge of the situation told me Washington did not grant Sweat’s representation permission to shop for a trade and new contract. That would have made it easier for the Bears and removed an element of risk in the deal. The Commanders also could have increased their asking price beyond a second-round pick had they extended that option.

This conflicts with reports namely by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, which claimed the Atlanta Falcons were prepared to extend Montez Sweat as part of the deal. When it comes to situations like these, I generally side with the local and connected beat writers like Brad. Often, the national writers get fed random, if not bad, info by agents around the league to drum up talks.

Additionally, people are focused on the fact that the Atlanta Falcons are the hometown team of Montez Sweat. He currently has family in the area and played high school ball at Stone Mountain, GA. When asked about that story regarding the Falcons in his presser, Montez Sweat simply acknowledged that the Bears “wanted (him) more.” As minute as that sounds, that speaks loudly to how much of a non-issue that shall become moving forward.

We do know the Atlanta Falcons were interested, but how interested they actually were may never be known. We just know the Chicago Bears were more interested.

Back to what Brad Biggs mentioned. Had the Chicago Bears proceeded with talking contract specifics with Montez Sweat’s agent(s), under those circumstances, that would have been considered tampering. That’s also why I am feeling incredibly skeptical about the validity of Jeremy Fowler’s reports. Still, I do have a strong suspicion some form of assurance for a new deal was passed along between GM Ryan Poles and the appropriate agencies. Making assurances vs. making a firm offer are completely different from one another.

In Ryan Poles’ presser, a well done one at that, he expressed strong confidence that a deal with Montez Sweat will get finished. Ryan has already declared work has begun in such a deal, one that had to wait until Montez’s physical was completed. There was also one small detail overlooked by many people of which Brad Biggs pointed out.

In 2019, Montez Sweat was flagged for a pre-existing heart condition during the NFL’s annual scouting combine. He’s had no such issues in any of his years so far in the NFL, and appears to have already been cleared based on his appearance at practice today. But the physical always comes first. Now that the first step has been passed, they can hammer out the final details. When those details are finalized remains to be seen.

So... why are the Chicago Bears acquiring Montez Sweat now?

On the surface, the 2023 season is a lost cause for the Chicago Bears. Their record stands at 2-6, they have zero wins in two years within their division, and the amount of credible improvements anywhere on the team have been few—naturally, a complete disaster for any regime entering year two.

I remain firm in my belief that Matt Eberflus will be shown the door at year’s end. This is due to numerous conduct-related firings within his own coaching staff, five total wins out of 25 opportunities so far, and the level of impact from his HITS principles being nothing more than a soft nudge on the shoulder. Amongst other reasons, plenty of you reading this article will suggest.

Contrary to what plenty of talented writers think, this trade doesn’t guarantee sanctuary for Matt Eberflus. It actually increases the risk and the heat on Matt’s seat exponentially. This isn’t nearly as much, “I’m helping you out,” as this is, “You better show me something now, or else.” Ryan Poles voiced his confidence in Matt Eberflus during his presser. It is also early in November, and the season doesn’t officially end until early January. Kudos to Ryan Poles for at least attempting to avoid dumping more fuel into the roaring fire.

Back to the question. I feel, based on everything we have seen and heard, this decision was made by Ryan Poles, with the strongest idea being to get ahead of addressing his biggest needs entering 2024, regardless of who he thinks will be his coaching staff by March of next year.

From an analytical standpoint, the logic is somewhat sound.

The chances of Montez Sweat hitting the market in free agency, had he stayed in Washington as some of the writers felt they attempted to achieve, were exponentially small. Yes, the Commanders trying to pay Montez Sweat and Chase Young together would simply have been impossible. Thus, it was all but certain they’d move on from Chase Young entirely.

If the Washington Commanders had it their way, then Montez Sweat would still be in the state of Maryland. They, of course, had the franchise tag at their disposal and had a trade offer not met their satisfaction at the deadline, then the tag gets slapped on Montez. That would have effectively taken the Chicago Bears out of the discussion.

If he were to escape Washington without receiving the franchise tag, his contract value would swell up significantly, almost to an uncomfortable level.

The only comparable talent projected to hit free agency in 2024 at edge would be Brian Burns of the Carolina Panthers and Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings. Of those two, only Hunter seems safe from the franchise tag. And you’re kidding yourself if you think he’s not seeking a deal that could potentially reset the market value. This brings us to what could have been the likeliest name for edge #2 in the market... Montez Sweat.

A lot of hullabaloo has been made regarding “leverage” in this situation between Montez Sweat and the Bears. Yes, Montez certainly has plenty of time, and his complete right to make his decision when he wants to. However, to ignore the potential of the Bears using their franchise tag on Montez, would be foolish. They absolutely can and will use the exclusive rights franchise tag if this negotiation runs too close to the wire.

Of course, they’d want to keep that tag for if needed on young standout corner Jaylon Johnson. I don’t think this game of financial chicken will play out in such a way. I believe Ryan Poles wouldn’t have made this move if he didn’t suspect himself of having a great enough chance to get these extensions done. Just look at the Jaylon Johnson situation during the trade deadline getting served as a plain nothing burger for reference.

One potential clue is the Bears’ latest extension for DT Andrew Billings. Not only did Andrew absolutely deserve to be rewarded, but the timing and money offered makes me think Cliff Stein and Ryan Poles know how much money the Bears will need to commit to Montez Sweat. It’s a potential precursor to the pending extension that is making people Sweat way too much.

Securing Montez Sweat now effectively guarantees Bears GM Ryan Poles the chance to lock Montez up for the long term. He’s getting a full five-month head start in negotiating a new deal for a prized addition he’s been searching for the better part of a year now. You best believe he’s pulling out the stops to make this happen.

Also, securing Montez Sweat now allows for the eventual pre-draft plans to place a much lower premium on what would have been a significant position of need. As it stands, it frees up Ryan Poles to use his first-rounders on positions outside of edge. Namely quarterback — if Justin Fields is not the guy moving forward — and possibly left tackle. You could say drafting the best offensive weapon on the board is also justifiable with either of his two first-rounders.

I’m a pretty big fan of the 2024 class of edge players. That being said, only two of them are guys I think project to have a bigger impact than Montez Sweat: Jared Verse of FSU and Dallas Turner of Alabama. Those guys will most likely be taken fairly early within the first round. Otherwise, I don’t think you can do much better than Montez Sweat with their 2nd round pick. He guarantees the Chicago Bears a solution at edge. Not a projection.

It remains to be seen what happens with Jaylon Johnson at corner. People seemed convinced he was gone until he wasn’t. People seemed convinced Ryan Poles would sit at the deadline until he took action. A rare opportunity to improve the football team presented itself. So, Ryan Poles rolled the dice. I can’t fault him for making that effort.

Crazier things have happened around the NFL in recent years. Perhaps the Bears finish 2023 on a very high note, and everything else falls into place going into 2024. Or, they finish flat, and changes are made throughout the organization. Acquiring Montez Sweat, despite the precedents of losing teams rarely being buyers at the deadline, is a sound decision. It gives the Bears a chance to finally fix their edge on defense for now and in the future.