Montez Sweat Grades Out as a Top Edge Defender (But There’s a But…)

bears de montez sweat vs NFL Draft No. 1 pick Bryce young
bears de montez sweat vs NFL Draft No. 1 pick Bryce young

It didn’t take long for me to do a complete 180 on the Montez Sweat trade.

Admittedly, I was a bit skittish when I learned of the deal. Most of that was rooted in not loving the idea of the Chicago Bears trading their second-round pick two years in a row — particularly since trading their second-rounder in 2023 ultimately turned out to be the first pick of that round. However, Sweat’s play, production, and presence on the Bears’ defensive line spoke volumes for what he is capable of (while also lifting up his teammates in the process). But here we are, 212 days later, and the standout defensive end earns high praise from the folks over at Pro Football Focus.

Montez Sweat checks in at No. 22 on PFF’s list of top 32 edge defenders entering the 2024 NFL season. Here is what Trevor Sikkema had to say about Chicago’s top defensive end:

Sweat is coming off two very solid seasons, combining for 20.5 sacks across two teams. His average pass-rush win rate during that time is still below 15.0%, but he was a much-needed boost to the Bears’ defensive line and should continue to be so.

If not for Montez Sweat, there would be no Bears representation on the list. Sure, former Bears star pass-rusher Khalil Mack cracks the top-10 at No. 7. But that tangential link is as close as we get to another Chicago connection. And it brings me to a troubling place as I look ahead to the 2024 season.

Here’s the ‘but’: Montez Sweat needs some help

There are two things that stood out to me while boozing this PFF list. Firstly, the number of stud edge defenders who are on the Bears’ list of opponents this season. This collection of talent is a doozy:

  • Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers (3)
  • Aidan Hutchinson (3) and Marcus Davenport (30), Detroit Lions
  • Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars (8)
  • Rashan Gary, Green Bay Packers (11)
  • Danielle Hunter (16) and Will Anderson Jr., Houston Texans (20)
  • Andrew Van Ginkel (24) and Jonathan Greenard (30), Minnesota Vikings
  • Matthew Judon, New England Patriots (26)
  • Jadeveon Clowney, Carolina Panthers (27)
  • Seeing the Bears will face 11 of Pro Football Focus’ top 32 pass rushers stopped me in my tracks. Realizing that in three of those games (Lions, Texans, Vikings) that this team will face teams that can boast pass-rushing tandems with a pair of top edge rushers gave me an angsty feeling that I usually get during the regular season. And, finally, getting a grasp on the reality that 11 of the Bears’ 17 games will feature at least one of the game’s top pass rushers truly has me thankful that Chicago’s football team has a pair of formidable tackles who can help protect Caleb Williams when he drops back to pass.

    MORE: The Chicago Bears Have *TWO* of the NFL’s Best Offensive Tackles

    But still … I sure hope the Bears are cooking up plans to slow those guys down this season. Otherwise, it’ll be a long day for QB1 and the rest of the offense.

    Again, I love what Montez Sweat brings to the table. And opposing offenses have to game plan to stop him. It’s just that the Bears could use an upgrade on the other side…

    Montez sweat bears de
    Nov 9, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears defensive lineman Montez Sweat (98) is interviewed for television after a 16-13 win over the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

    … which brings me to the other thing that stands out to me (and also leaves me with an uneasy feeling in my stomach). Do you see how many of these players were available in free agency for the Bears to sign?

    These defensive ends who ranked in PFF’s top-32 switched teams this offseason:

  • Bryce Huff: New York Jets –> Philadelphia Eagles
  • Danielle Hunter: Minnesota Vikings –> Houston Texans
  • Haason Reddick: Philadelphia Eagles –> New York Jets (via trade)
  • Brian Burns: Carolina Panthers –> New York Giants (via trade)
  • Andrew Van Ginkel: Miami Dolphins –> Minnesota Vikings
  • Jadeveon Clowney: Baltimore Ravens –> Carolina Panthers
  • Jonathan Greenard: Houston Texans –> Minnesota Vikings
  • Marcus Davenport: Minnesota Vikings –> Detroit Lions
  • The Bears could’ve found some much-needed help for Montez Sweat this offseason.

    Eight players on Pro Football Focus’ list of top 32 pass rushers will begin the 2024 season with a team different than the one they were on at the end of the 2023 campaign. Six of those players left their previous teams via free agency. Players like Danielle Hunter, Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Bryce Huff were on Patrick’s off-season wish list. Meanwhile, Hunter and Huff were players who had popped up as rumored Bears targets in recent years. Greenard was seen as a great fit for Chicago by PFF ahead of free agency.

    Don’t get me wrong. A salary-capped league means your favorite team can’t sign everyone your heart desires. They just paid Montez Sweat, after all. And considering that it is long past time for this franchise to start spending on building out the offense, I don’t want to quibble too much about the offseason approach. However, I feel as if I might look back at the offseason and see that the Bears missed an opportunity or two to team Montez Sweat with another stud defensive end.

    With that being said, the Bears could still seek help elsewhere. Just because the roster feels settled now, it doesn’t mean that things can’t change in the days, weeks, and months ahead. General Manager Ryan Poles has made some notable summer signings in the past, and another could conceivably be on the way in 2024. Ideally, the Bears would bring someone else in before training camp to get them acclimated. But I’m not sure how realistic that is at this point in the offseason.

    Where can the Bears go from here?

    Let me lead this section with this thought: All hope is not lost. Plus, there are still some quality players available in free agency to team with Montez Sweat. The level of impact they could provide varies. But an upgrade is an upgrade. Beggars can’t be choosers. And I’m almost on the cusp of begging for the Bears to bring in some fresh faces to Halas Hall.

    Perhaps Calais Campbell makes sense. Last week, we explored Campbell as a Bears free agency fit. Despite his age, Campbell intrigues me as a Montez Sweat tag team partner because his production hasn’t slowed as he enters his age 38 season. For what it’s worth, PFF has Campbell as a top-25 edge defender in each of the past three seasons. Maybe this ageless wonder has another one in him. And if he does, I’d prefer that he has it with the Bears.

    Carl Lawson, who turns 29 in June, has has a respectable career. From 2017-22, Lawson averaged 7 sacks, 7 tackles-for-loss, and 27 quarterback hits per 17 games. He played just six games for the New York Jets in 2023 due to a back injury that limited his time on the field. Perhaps putting Lawson opposite of Montez Sweat could help bring back the guy who terrorized quarterbacks with 7 sacks and 24 QB Hits in 17 games during the 2022 season.

    Running it back with Yannick Ngakoue isn’t the worst idea I’ve heard. I thought he looked good in the brief time lining up opposite of Montez Sweat. Ngakoue, who played briefly for the Bears in 2023 before a broken ankle sidelined him for the stretch run, says he is “ready to rush” — whatever that means. If it means that he is healthy and would return to Chicago at a discounted rate compared to what he was paid last year, then I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

    In the end, I know Montez Sweat needs some help. Don’t get me wrong. I like what DeMarcus Walker brings from a versatility standpoint. And Austin Booker is a rookie whose development is atop of my list of things I’m looking forward to following at training camp. But this Bears defense is missing one more butt-kicking defensive lineman. I hope they find them soon.

    written by

    Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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