“I’m still trying to figure out where I’m going to lay my head at tonight,” Sweat said.
So the new Bears defensive end will have to be excused for still figuring out what it’s going to take for the Bears to sign him to a contract extension.
It’s one of the most relevant questions for the Bears after general manager Ryan Poles traded a 2024 second-round draft pick to the Washington Commanders on Tuesday to acquire Sweat, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. In order to make that investment in draft capital worth it, the Bears obviously want Sweat for more than nine games.
Poles said the Bears are working to make a deal with Sweat. He didn’t have a timeline for when it might be completed but said he was hopeful “it won’t take too long.” The Bears also will have the franchise and transition tags available this offseason if a contract doesn’t come to fruition.
“I feel really confident that we can get a deal done,” Poles said.
Sweat, a former Commanders first-round pick who has 35 1/2 career sacks in 67 games since 2019, said financial security and the people and teammates around him would be important factors in where he signs his next contract.
He said he was sure his agents were talking to the Bears about working something out. But for Wednesday, Sweat still was trying to get his bearings in Lake Forest.
“Everything is happening kind of fast right now,” he said. “I’m just waiting for it to slow down and hit the ground running when we get there.”
Poles called the 6-foot-6, 262-pound Sweat “a long, fast, explosive, relentless defensive end that can help us both in the run and in the pass game.” He said Sweat is “a multiplier,” the type of player who makes everybody else on the defense better.
“Hopefully he comes in and continues to be that dog that he’s shown over the years,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said of Sweat. “Get some tipped passes that maybe fall my way or get the QB to throw the ball off target a little bit, allow it to fall in my hands.”
Sweat joins a Bears pass rush in desperate need of a boost after totaling an NFL-low 10 sacks through eight games.
After examining the upcoming options in free agency and the draft, the Bears saw the acquisition as getting ahead of a competitive market.
“If you look at the free agent stack now, it’s going to look very different by the time you get to that point of the year because there are so many different opportunities that can pop up in terms of extensions, tags, different things like that,” Poles said. “So we decided with that type of player we wanted to capitalize on that now.”
It was the second time in two years Poles traded a second-round draft pick for a player at the midseason deadline.
Last year’s trade, when Poles sent what would become the No. 32 overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for wide receiver Chase Claypool, obviously was a bust. The Bears traded Claypool to the Miami Dolphins after less than a year with the team.
Poles said he learned from the Claypool situation. But he also didn’t let it affect his thinking with Sweat, who is more established than Claypool was and already has 6 1/2 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and 10 tackles for a loss in eight games this year.
“If (the moves) fail or you make mistakes, you look back at why and address those,” Poles said. “The key is that sometimes you become a little bit shy to make aggressive moves as you go forward. That’s not how we’re wired. I took a lot of those things from that situation and kind of went through that process and said, ‘OK, here’s where we may have messed up this.’ Then for this one, it’s not making the same mistake.”
In the days before the deadline, Sweat had seen the rumors swirling about potentially being traded. His agent told him the Atlanta Falcons were among the teams interested in acquiring him, and as someone who’s from Georgia, it was “a place of interest.”
“Obviously they wanted me,” Sweat said. “Here they wanted me more, so this is where I am.”
Sweat was heading to a Commanders walk-through Tuesday when he received the call from his agent. He said there were “a lot of emotions” as he prepared to leave his only NFL home, in part because of the relationships he built.
“I mean you’ve got to pick up shop and find a new home,” Sweat said. “So there’s a lot of emotions that come with that, but I’m ready for the challenge. I’m ready to meet my new teammates and hit the ground rolling.”
In the short term, Sweat said he believes he will play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, a possibility coach Matt Eberflus left up in the air.
As for the long term, Sweat didn’t delve into how much leverage he has over the Bears in contract talks given the draft capital they gave up to acquire him.
“I don’t really know too much about leverage and all that type of stuff,” he said. “I just want to consider everything around me before I make a decision.”