Why Bears traded for Montez Sweat, not Chase Young, and why they didn't wait for free agency

Why Bears traded for Montez Sweat, not Chase Young, and why they didn't wait for free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- One year after trading a second-round pick for wide receiver Chase Claypool, Bears general manager Ryan Poles got aggressive again Tuesday when he dealt Chicago's 2024 second-round pick to the Washington Commanders for edge rusher Montez Sweat.

Sweat, 27, is in the final year of his contract and will be a free agent at the end of the season. Poles swung for the fences again because, in his view, getting Sweat now is the Bears' best chance to address their punchless pass rush. After evaluating the upcoming free agent class, of which Sweat is ticketed to be part of, and the draft class, Poles paid the tax to bring Sweat to Chicago.

"In terms of our process, really this is a situation where you try to forecast forward," Poles said Wednesday at Halas Hall. "You look at the draft potential – our guys have been doing a really good job getting information in – as well as free agency. We felt like this was a really good opportunity to get ahead of that and get a top pass rusher in the building. And again, that’s short term but also for long term. We’re currently working on getting a contract done now."

The Bears could have waited until free agency to try and sign Sweat without giving up what is projected to be the No. 35 overall pick in the 2024 draft. But Poles sees value in getting Sweat in the building instead of waiting and hoping that Sweat isn't tagged, makes it to the market, and chooses the Bears over what likely would be a robust market.

“I think it’s capitalizing right now because you start to lose opportunities," Poles said of why he wanted to trade for Sweat now. "It’s really hard to see …. 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. So we decided with that type of player we wanted to capitalize on that now.”

Sweat wasn't the only Commanders edge rusher traded Tuesday as Washington also shipped Chase Young to the San Francisco 49ers for a third-round pick. There had been rumblings that the Bears were interested in Young, but it appears Sweat was the only edge rusher they wanted to acquire, and they weren't sure he'd get traded by the deadline.

“I’ll be honest: really didn’t think that Tez was available for a while," Poles said about choosing Sweat over potentially Young. "So that door was kind of closed, it was going to be kind of quiet and then it popped back up in the last couple hours.”

This is now two years in a row that Poles has parted with a second-round pick in a trade deadline deal. The Bears general manager says he learned from the Claypool deal but wouldn't let that mistake stop him from chasing a deal to get Sweat to Chicago.

“It’s one of those things that, I try to take a lot of pride in it, you look at things that you do, if they fail or you make mistakes, you look back at why and address those," Poles said. "I think 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.”

Sweat arrived Wednesday and said he hasn't considered a long-term future in Chicago. The Mississippi State product said he wants "security" but will take everything into account before deciding on a long-term home.

Poles said he has already started working on getting an extension done.

“It’s hard to put a timeline on it, but I’m hoping it won’t take too long," Poles said. "I feel really confident that we can get a deal done."

The Bears can franchise tag or transition tag Sweat if they can't get a long-term extension done by March.

But Poles made the deal to make Sweat part of the foundation of this rebuild. He paid a handsome tax for the exclusive right to negotiate with Sweat, believing that was the best way to ensure the top-level edge rusher, whom the GM called "a multiplier," was a Bear.

The deal came together quickly, with Poles believing the high price tag was worth it for a player of Sweat's caliber. Someone he believes can help the Bears immediately and be a building block for his rebuild. But there's work to do to make that second part become reality.

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