Are Chase Young trade, Carl Lawson cut potential Bears options?
Could Bears find pass-rush help with Young trade, Lawson release? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bears didn't address one of their most pressing needs in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Without a pick between No. 10 and No. 53, the Bears watched as teams gobbled up all the top-tier pass rushers, forcing general manager Ryan Poles to leave that task for another day.
The Bears still have a little less than $40 million in salary cap space. There are several veteran edge rushers still on the open market for Poles to take a swing at between now and the start of training camp. Yannick Ngakoue and Justin Houston are the two best options, but any added pass-rushing talent will be a welcome sight at Halas Hall.
The Bears' best chance to soup up their toothless pass rush is the free-agent market. But are there other options?
The Washington Commanders recently declined to pick up the fifth-year option on former Pro Bowl edge rusher Chase Young.
Washington already has given lucrative long-term extensions to defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Both Young and Montez Sweat will be free agents next offseason, and the Commanders can only afford to keep one.
ESPN's Dan Graziano reported that one of Sweat or Young could be traded during the draft. That didn't happen.
Any trade for Young likely would have had to occur before the May 2 deadline, as any team acquiring Young would want to pick up his option for 2024. With that no longer a possibility, it seems likely that Young and Sweat will play out the season in D.C. Either Young or Sweat will be extended after the season, and the other will walk.
Young has had just 1.5 sacks in his last 12 games and didn't take down the quarterback in the three games he played last season after returning from a torn ACL and damaged patella tendon. According to reports, the long-term health of Young's knee is not considered an issue.
As long as Young is healthy and productive in 2023, he'll get a nice paycheck from someone after the season ends.
Could he or Sweat be traded before the season starts or perhaps at the deadline? It's possible but not likely. Commanders coach Ron Rivera is facing a lot of pressure to make the playoffs this fall. Trading Sweat or Young would be detrimental to that cause.
Even if the Commanders start slowly, they won't sell low on Young or Sweat. Any deal likely would have the Bradley Chubb framework (first-round pick, player, and other draft capital). That's probably too rich for the Bears.
The Bears are slated to have $121 million in salary cap next offseason, per OverTheCap. If the Commanders choose Sweat over Young, Poles could target the Ohio State product in free agency. But Young likely won't be in the cards for the Bears in 2023.
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That brings us to Door No. 2.
It has long been assumed that the New York Jets will either cut Carl Lawson or ask him to rework his contract, especially given Aaron Rodgers' mammoth contract.
However, Rodgers restructured his contract upon coming to New York, pushing almost all of his cap hit to 2024. As it stands Thursday, the Jets still have $10 million in cap space with Lawson's $15 million base salary.
Even before the Jets completed the Rodgers trade, head coach Robert Saleh made it clear he didn't plan on Lawson playing anywhere other than East Rutherford in 2023.
“I’ll speak for [GM Joe Douglas] on this one,” Saleh told reporters at the annual NFL league meeting. “You know, pass-rushers, they don’t grow on trees, and Carl has a commodity in this league that’s gold, so he will be here as long as he can walk and play and rush the passer and affect it the way he does. He’ll be here.”
The trade for the 39-year-old Rodgers was a win-now move for the Jets. If the Jets are to make it through a loaded AFC, they must have the pass-rusher depth to harass the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, and Josh Allen.
The 27-year-old Lawson would be a great fit in Bears head coach Matt Eberflus' defense, but there's no longer a reason to think the Jets will cut him at the moment.
Poles will add an edge rusher or two before training camp. Ngakoue, Houston, Frank Clark, and Leonard Floyd are all options.
The Bears should have their pick of the free-agent litter. That has to be good enough for the 2023 season.
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