Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus Wants to Find Pass-Rushing Partner For Montez Sweat

Chicago holds the No. 1 and No. 9 overall picks in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.
Chicago Bears v Cleveland Browns
Chicago Bears v Cleveland Browns / Jason Miller/GettyImages
In this story:

The Chicago Bears finished the 2023 season strong, especially defensively. The most visible improvement came after the franchise acquired Washington Commanders edge rusher Montez Sweat at the trade deadline. Sweat recorded six sacks and 14 quarterback hits after arriving in the Windy City in Week 9. Chicago anticipated his performance and signed him to a four-year contract extension worth $98 million following the trade, ensuring Sweat would be around for a new era of Bears football.

That new era will be largely defined by this year's NFL Draft. Chicago owns the No. 1 and No. 9 overall picks in the first round. What the organization will do with the top overall pick became clear following the Justin Fields trade. They'll be selecting a new franchise quarterback, most likely Caleb Williams. Which means the No. 9 pick is a prime opportunity to pick up another franchise cornerstone at another key position.

Head coach Matt Eberflus' comments to reporters about finding a pass-rushing partner for Sweat might shed some light on what the team could do at that pick.

"It's important that we get that piece because you have to have the 1-2 punch," Eberflus said. "It can be inside as well. You look at who affects the quarterback the most, I would also argue that the inside piece is also something that we should be looking at, and it's important that we do that. Direct line to the quarterback. When they max protect, it's a soft spot in the protection. We're looking at all pass rushers. It can be inside, outside, all along the line. We're having an open mind in that regard."

If the Bears do go that route, they should have plenty of options. Most of the top 10 picks are projected to be spent on quarterbacks, wide receivers, and offensive linemen. Chicago could very well end up taking the first edge-rusher off the board, or even the first defender overall.

There are pass rushers to be found, too. Dallas Turner and Laiatu Latu are the consensus top edge players in the draft and are largely projected to be available at No. 9. As Eberflus suggested, if the Bears decided to go with an interior defender instead, Byron Murphy II is considered a force to be reckoned with and will definitely be around when it's Chicago's second turn at the podium.

A lot of options await the Bears in April. There will be a ton of pressure to get it right, too. They should be one of the most fascinating teams to watch in this year's NFL draft.

Liam McKeone is a writer at The Big Lead.


Published |Modified
Liam McKeone

LIAM MCKEONE

Liam McKeone is a Senior Writer for the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. In addition to his role as a writer, he collaborates with other teams across Minute Media to help define his team’s content strategy. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in 2024, Liam worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, Liam is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books, and video games. Liam has been a member of the National Sports Media Association (NSMA) since 2020.