Montez Sweat‘s status has changed a few times since the Halloween trade deadline. The 2019 first-round pick has gone from contract-year Commanders pass rusher to a Bears rental to a player now locked in long term with his new team. Sweat signed a four-year, $98MM extension prior to suiting up for the Bears.
Coming into deadline day, the Commanders held at least two offers for Sweat. The other known proposal came from the Falcons, who had sweetened their proposal by that point. Atlanta initially offered a third-rounder for Sweat, and CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones indicates that deal included conditions that would have bumped the compensation to a second. However, Jones adds the Falcons then dropped the conditional component and offered the Commanders a straight second for Sweat.
A Georgia native with family in the Atlanta area, Sweat is believed to have initially preferred to be dealt to the Falcons. It appears, however, the Bears’ struggles under Matt Eberflus have once again benefited them in a trade. The Packers were also believed to have offered the Steelers a second-round pick for Chase Claypool last year, but Pittsburgh preferred the Chicago offer due to what turned out to be a correct expectation the pick would end up higher in the 2023 draft. Chicago’s second-round draft slot checked in at No. 32, Green Bay’s at 45. The Bears came into this year’s deadline at 2-6, with the Falcons residing at 4-4.
GM Ryan Poles‘ unusual penchant for making buyer’s trades in a seller’s position has now netted the team two pieces over the past two years. While the Claypool move backfired to the point the Bears needed to give him away in a pick swap involving 2025 late-round choices — via an October deal with the Dolphins — the team is far more bullish on Sweat, who is now the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid edge defender.
As was the case with what turned out to be an unappealing 2023 receiver market, Jones adds the Bears were not high on the 2024 edge rusher pool. The Packers drained it further to start last week, extending Rashan Gary. While Green Bay would have enjoyed the opportunity to tag Gary next year, the Bears’ NFC North rivals provided a bit of clarity on the ’24 edge market just before the deadline. That deal helped shape Sweat’s, with the Bears giving their trade acquisition a higher AAV ($24.5MM) compared to Gary ($24MM).
Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are on track for free agency in 2024, but the 2022 Vikings starters are not exactly long-term building blocks at this stage. Chase Young would qualify as such, though the 49ers now hold exclusive negotiating rights with the former Defensive Rookie of the Year until the 2024 tampering period. Josh Uche (Patriots) and Jonathan Greenard (Texans) qualify as edges who will command interesting markets, and while the Bears will have a need opposite Sweat, they opted to take their big swing early.
The Falcons do not have a foundation in place on the edge just yet. Bud Dupree is tied to a one-year, $3MM contract, with rotational rusher Lorenzo Carter re-signing on a two-year, $9MM pact this offseason. Second-year player Arnold Ebiketie leads the team, along with D-lineman David Onyemata, with 3.5 sacks. The Falcons’ 19 as a team ranks outside the top 20. Though, the Bears have been in worse shape. Chicago’s 10 sacks are five worse than the 31st-place team this season. They will bank on Sweat changing their pass-rushing course.