Top 5 most important Chicago Bears in 2024: No. 3 Montez Sweat

Bears signed Sweat to 4-year, $98 million contract last year

Chicago Bears defensive end Montez Sweat gets to Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff as he gets rid of the ball during their game Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Bears training camp is only a week away. Veteran players report for camp July 19, and practices begin July 20. The much-anticipated 2024 season is nearly here.

This week, Shaw Local is counting down the five most important Bears players in 2024. What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes, it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?

The best player on the team isn’t always the most important, but he certainly can be. Check back all week to see the top five most important players.

Here’s a look at No. 3 on the list.

No. 3 Montez Sweat

Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws under pressure from Chicago Bears defensive end Montez Sweat (98) during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, in Chicago.

Position: Defensive end

Experience: Sixth season

Looking back: Despite a 2-6 record at the time, the Bears were a surprise buyer at the 2023 NFL trade deadline. They sent a 2024 second-round draft pick to the Washington Commanders in exchange for defensive end Montez Sweat. The Bears subsequently signed Sweat to a four-year, $98 million contract extension that will keep him in Chicago through the 2027 season.

In just nine games, Sweat’s presence completely changed the fortunes of the Bears’ defense. He led the team with six sacks and became the first player to ever lead two teams in sacks [his 6.5 sacks with Washington also were a team-high]. His 12.5 total sacks between both teams marked a career high. Once Sweat joined the Bears, takeaways improved as a result of an improved pass rush. Sweat hit the opposing quarterback 14 times in nine games. His performance earned him his first Pro Bowl appearance.

While general manager Ryan Poles received mixed reviews from the national media for the trade that brought Swift to the Bears – partially because the team has to pay him so much – the initial return on investment seems to be paying off. Sweat turns 28 days before the season opener and is due to make $25 million this season, making him the highest-paid player on the team. He currently is the sixth-highest paid edge rusher in the NFL.

Looking forward: The Bears are going to need a good season from Sweat in 2024. He’s by far the best pass rusher on the team. If Sweat were to miss time due to injury, the Bears would be in big trouble at the defensive end position. The depth at that position falls off pretty quickly, although it’s possible the Bears could look for additional help on the free-agent market.

The defense will want to hit the ground running from the get-go in 2024, especially with the team starting a rookie quarterback. If the defense is clicking, it will make life easier for Caleb Williams. The secondary is among the best in the league, but that will only take the defense so far if the pass rush isn’t performing. The defensive line, led by Sweat, needs to make life hard on opposing quarterbacks.

Sweat has a legitimate chance to be a star in Chicago. He’s already on that track, and another Pro Bowl performance could take his career into the stratosphere, especially if the Bears are winning football games and in contention for the playoffs. Bears fans should be hoping that Sweat’s first nine games in Chicago were just the tip of the iceberg.

Sweat finished 2023 playing at the top of his game. If he’s getting to the quarterback in 2024, that probably means the Bears are winning games.

Previous installments of the top five most important Bears

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.