Chicago Bears upgrade their pass rush in a trade-deadline deal for defensive end Montez Sweat

A year after adding a wide receiver ahead of the NFL trade deadline, the Chicago Bears are attempting to boost their pass rush with a splashy move that general manager Ryan Poles must be hoping has a long-term payoff.

The Bears traded a 2024 second-round draft pick Tuesday to the Washington Commanders for defensive end Montez Sweat.

Sweat, who leads the Commanders with 6 1/2 sacks, immediately becomes the best edge defender for the Bears, who are last in the NFL with 10 sacks.

“Montez is a huge addition to our team,” Poles said in a statement. “He is not only a great player but a great person. We expect him to help elevate our defense.”

The Bears can negotiate a contract extension with Sweat or use the franchise tag to secure him before free agency starts in March. They are projected to have about $100 million in salary-cap room, so space to pay Sweat would not be an issue.

It would not be surprising if the Bears already are working on a new contract for Sweat with the goal of securing his future with the team when he arrives.

The 27-year-old Sweat, a first-round pick from Mississippi State in 2019, has been the Commanders’ most consistent edge rusher for the last three seasons as a knee injury sidelined Chase Young.

Young has bounced back this season, but concerns about the stability of his right knee — he tore the ACL and patellar tendon in 2021 — made Sweat the more sought-after player as the Commanders sorted through trade options. They also dealt Young to the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional third-round pick, according to reports.

The Bears attempted to address their pass rush at the outset of training camp by signing veteran Yannick Ngakoue to a one-year, $10.5 million contract. He has been disappointing so far and hasn’t had a quarterback hit in the last three games. Ngakoue is tied with weak-side linebacker T.J. Edwards for the team lead with two sacks.

Bears defensive ends have combined for 13 quarterback hits, led by DeMarcus Walker’s five, and five sacks in eight games.

Securing Sweat would make this a more sound investment than the gamble Poles made at this time last year, when he traded a second-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for wide receiver Chase Claypool. The goal was to provide developing quarterback Justin Fields with more help, but a knee injury sidelined Claypool and he struggled to fit into the offense.

Claypool finished with 14 catches for 140 yards in seven games for the Bears in 2022, and despite everyone saying all the right things about the former Notre Dame standout in the offseason, he didn’t fit in this season either. Poles eventually cut his losses, sending Claypool and a seventh-round pick in 2025 to the Miami Dolphins for a sixth-round pick in 2025.

“You’re always disappointed in this situation, and it’s definitely something I take ownership of,” Poles told WMVP-AM 1000 after the trade. “Last year, in the situation we were in, we wanted to add another receiver to the offense, not only to help us be more productive but also to help Justin take the next step. The right thought process was there, and I feel comfortable with that.

“Unfortunately it didn’t work out and we were hoping for him to be a little bit more productive and be someone that could help us take it to the next level.”

That same thought process was in play with Sweat, and if the Bears can work out an extension, they wouldn’t be making as big of a gamble. Plus they’re getting a player with a greater track record of success.

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