The Bears have finalized a contract extension for the 27-year-old Sweat, ensuring he will be much more than a half-season rental after the team acquired him Tuesday before the NFL trade deadline, sending a 2024 second-round draft pick to the Washington Commanders.
Before making his debut for the Bears on Sunday at New Orleans, Sweat will sign a four-year extension worth $98 million with $73 million guaranteed. The annual average of $24.5 million ranks fifth among edge rushers in the NFL, nudging just past the four-year, $96 million contract the Green Bay Packers gave Rashaan Gary. Sweat’s deal runs through the 2027 season.
Some criticized the aggressive move because the Bears weren’t guaranteed to keep Sweat even though they would have had the franchise tag at their disposal after the season. But Poles was certain all along he would be able to present a contract to Sweat that would make him happy to be part of the organization moving forward.
Sweat led the Commanders with 6 1/2 sacks and is only 2 1/2 away from the career-high nine he had in 2020. The Bears enter Sunday’s game against the Saints at the Caesars Superdome with a league-low 10 sacks, which has led coach Matt Eberflus to rely on blitzing more in recent weeks.
“We see him as a long, fast, explosive, relentless defensive end that can help us both in the run and in the pass game,” Poles said Wednesday. “Really, I see him as a multiplier. He’s going to allow everyone to play better, our entire defensive front, our corners, our safeties. Again, hopefully — we talk about it all the time — creating turnovers and stops.”
It is the second deal this week on the defensive line. The team rewarded nose tackle Andrew Billings with a modest two-year, $8.5 million extension Thursday. Billings is one reason the Bears went from 31st against the run last season to third entering Week 9.
With a deal for Sweat wrapped up, Poles can turn his attention to cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who is in the final year of his contract. The Bears have had considerable dialogue with Johnson’s agent, Chris Ellison, in recent weeks, and Poles indicated he thought the sides were moving closer to a deal last weekend before the player sought permission to seek a trade.
Johnson seemed amenable to considering a future with the organization when he spoke Wednesday, even though he said he hoped he would get paid before Sweat. The Bears will have exclusive negotiating rights with Johnson into the second week of March.