Though the Chicago Bears bolstered a drab pass rush ahead of the trade deadline, there were doubters aplenty as to why general manager Ryan Poles parted ways with a 2024 second-round pick for a player in the final season of his contract.
Poles made it known Wednesday that he's already working on locking up the newly acquired Montez Sweat for the long run. One 6-foot-6, 260-plus-pound caveat to all that is whether Sweat wants to work out an extension with the Bears ahead of what could be a lucrative dip into the free-agency waters.
Having yet to even get to his locker before addressing the media on Tuesday, Sweat did his best not to delve into contract matters while tapping the breaks on any long-term proclamations.
"Yeah, I mean, I'm not really into the contract talks," Sweat said. "I don't really know too much about leverage and all that stuff, I just want to consider everything around me before I make a decision."
Sweat was asked about the perceived leverage he had, considering Poles and the Bears would need to work out a long-term pact for the trade to be viewed by most as a positive transaction.
Lack of leverage or not, Poles is confident a deal can get done rather quickly and opened his presser Tuesday by saying he was "currently working on getting" an extension agreed on.
"I feel really confident that we can get a deal done," he said.
Sweat, who said he expects to play for the Bears Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, is a 27-year-old former first-round pick who's posted at least five sacks in each of his five seasons. So far this season, Sweat has 33 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats, and 6.5 sacks. The Bears have 10 as a team -- dead last in the NFL.
Improving the pass rush is a massive need for the Bears and has been for some time. However, bringing in Sweat at a second-round cost after a 2-6 start is questionable in the eyes of many. From Poles' view, though, he's looking to lock up a potential pass-rushing cornerstone before free agency comes around.
"I think it's capitalizing right now because you start to lose opportunities," Poles said. "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, [franchise] tags, different things like that. So, we decided with that type of player we wanted to capitalize on that now."
And Poles is optimistic a new deal will come sooner than later.
"It's hard to put a timeline on it, but I'm hoping it won't take too long," he said.
A looming negative hanging over the trade is that Poles pulled off another deal last year in which he traded away a second-round selection to acquire wide receiver Chase Claypool from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Claypool is now with the Miami Dolphins, having been a horrible fit for the Bears.
Poles was adamant he wouldn't be gun-shy in making another aggressive deal just because the previous one didn't pan out.
"I try to take a lot of pride in it. You look at things that you do, if they fail or you make mistakes, can 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. But that's just not how we're wired.
"So, we took a lot of those things from that situation [with Claypool] and kind of went through that process and said, 'OK, here's where we may have messed up this.' And then for this one, not making the same mistake."
One deal that didn't happen was trading away cornerback Jaylon Johnson. Johnson received permission to seek a trade, but one never transpired. Poles is fine with that, as he underscored he wants the cornerback in Chicago and is still trying to work out an extension with the impending free agent.
"Here's the thing. I don't want to lose Jaylon Johnson," Poles said. "If I were to lose Jaylon Johnson, I would like to have a high percentage of hitting on another Jaylon Johnson, which to me, is a late first and into early second [round draft pick]. Really simple there. That didn't happen. We are still open to getting a contract done. And I'm going to follow Jaylon's lead on how he wants to go about doing that but we're still open. And again, Jaylon and I have talked as recently as today."
Tuesday was a big day for Poles. He's still hoping to work something out with Johnson, and now he's working toward securing Sweat for the long haul.
For the pass rusher, though, he'd like to get a little more acclimated before he makes any long-term decisions.
"I think all that goes into play from financial to the people around me to the players in the building, all that type of stuff like that," Sweat said. "As I said, I just got here. I'm still trying to figure out where I'm going to lay my head at tonight."