The Chicago Bears made a splash during the NFL trade deadline, landing pass rusher Montez Sweat for a second round pick. Sweat is a really good player, and the compensation wasn’t completely off for a 27-year-old pass rusher — however, one detail that emerged on Wednesday completely changes how we can look at this deal.
Newest Chicago #Bears DE Montez Sweat indicated that he’s not currently ready to sign an extension. “I just want to consider everything around me before I make a decision.”
— Ben Devine (@Chicago_NFL) November 1, 2023
Sweat was arguably the best pass rusher on the market, and several teams were reportedly interested with the Falcons coming close for a deal — but if this ends up being a rental for the rest of 2023 it immediately becomes one of the worst trades in NFL history. The assumption was that the Bears already had an agreement in place with Sweat to sign long-term with Chicago, making the trade about getting him in the fold and avoiding the risk of losing him in free agency. Now he’s in Chicago the pass rusher wants to see how things go before agreeing to sign.
Why is this so bad? Let’s break it down:
The Bears aren’t competing in 2023
A rental like this only makes sense if you think it gets you to the next level of competitiveness. When the Rams traded for Von Miller it was to get them to the Super Bowl, and the 49ers got Chase Young at the deadline with the same idea in mind.
At 2-6 what’s the best the Bears are hoping for here? A single pass rusher unquestionably makes them better, but the end game is impossible to intuit. The Lions are 6-2 in the division and seem a lock to win it now Kirk Cousins is done for the year. In the NFC as a whole right now the bubble is at 4-4.
If we look at Chicago’s remaining schedule there’s three games against struggling teams they can really compete in (Panthers, Cardinals, Packers), three games where the opposition is favored but the the Bears could surprise (Saints, Falcons, Vikings), and three you wouldn’t expect Chicago to have a chance in (Browns, Lions twice).
With rose-colored glasses we can pencil in five more wins at best from this remaining schedule. This would put Chicago at 7-10 on the season. In 2022 it took 9-8 to get inside the bubble — so this would be a missed playoff spot anyway.
It could hurt their draft position
The only way the Bears have long-term success is by hitting on their draft picks. If Sweat makes them better they slide down the board as a result, and if the Panthers keep improving (as they’ve shown in the last two weeks) it sets up a potentially disastrous scenario where this team is drafting both their picks outside the Top 5, causing them to struggle to find a superstar.
The Sweat trade just adds to this, and if he walks after 2023 it’s a mess.
Losing another high 2nd hurts their future
Didn’t the Bears just go through this with Chase Claypool? Chicago’s desperation in 2022 led to them trading for a below-average receiver and giving up an above-average pick.
This 2024 second rounder will be in the top five. We don’t know how that class will shake out, but it’s looking deep on EDGE rushers. The Bears could have found a long-term player, but instead could wind up with a short rental in a pointless season.
Can this be salvaged?
If Montez Sweat signs long-term then it’s more or less okay. That’s basically all that saves this situation. I’m still not sure getting him is worth hurting their draft slot in 2024, but at least they have a cornerstone on the defensive line.
Ultimately this reeks of people trying to save their job, rather than put the Bears first. It’s a bad way to run a team, and hopefully for fans it doesn’t lead to more pain.