Montez Sweat

Elite edge rushers excited about potential of playing alongside Montez Sweat for Bears

The Bears could use the No. 9 pick to almost finish off their defensive rebuild

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INDIANAPOLIS -- While all the focus at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine is on the Bears and the No. 1 overall pick, Chicago has many other needs to address outside of quarterback.

Head coach Matt Eberflus noted Tuesday that high atop that list is finding an edge rusher to place opposite Montez Sweat.

"We have several priorities for sure," Eberflus told the assembled media Tuesday in Indianapolis. "So ordering them is really not, we are not there yet. Certainly pass rusher is one of them. We got to make sure that we have somebody opposite of Sweat. We can never have enough of those guys because they affect the game the most."

The Bears also own the No. 9 overall pick in April's draft, a selection that could very well be used on one of the top edge rushers.

Florida State's Jared Verse, UCLA's Laiatu Latu, and Alabama's Dallas Turner headline the 2024 class of edge rushers. All three perked up at the thought of landing in Chicago and starting their career opposite Sweat.

"I mean, you land you with a veteran guy, you know, I think at the end of the day I think, he knows I'm a young guy, I'm still going to need help, I'm going to need to get the understanding, to get the bearings right," Verse said Wednesday of potentially playing with Sweat. "He'll be able to direct me in the right path, fix a couple things that I might need help with that I didn't see in college, that won't work in the NFL. These guys are All-Pros, these guys are vets and stuff so I hope he'll give the guidance I need."

Latu lit up when broached with the idea of teaming with Sweat.

"Playing with him, I mean, I can never learn enough about pass rushing," Latu said. "It would be a great opportunity for me to get better and level up."

Both Latu and Verse met with the Bears on Tuesday.

These 20-minute sit-downs are a good way for teams to start to know players who could become their franchise's next building block.

The Bears ask each player to play putt-putt or darts, quiz them on their own game while playing, and then test their recall at the end.

Verse, who had 52 pressures and 11 sacks last season per Pro Football Focus, left his first meeting with general manager Ryan Poles, Eberflus, and the rest of the Bears' brass confident he left a good first impression.

"I hope they got the real me," Verse said. "I don't ever want to hide. I don't ever want to give off a false persona of who I am or how I present myself as a person. I hope they got the real me."

Latu was a dominant force for the Bruins' defense in 2023, notching 15 sacks and recording 52 pressures, per PFF. The UCLA star elected to play darts during his meeting with the Bears because he's not good at putting.

Latu got a good feeling from his meeting with the Bears and believed that he showed what makes him go as he fired darts at the board with the Bears' brass watching.

"Really that I'm competitive," Latu said about what impression he wanted to leave on the Bears. "With the darts, when they were telling me like, 'OK, get a bullseye," I came really close. Really, just when they were telling me to do something that I really would do it."

The group's third Tier 1 edge rusher is Alabama's Dallas Turner, who had 11 sacks and 55 pressures last season for the Crimson Tide.

Turner came into his own last season, filling the hole left by Will Anderson Jr., who the Houston Texans selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

He knows the Bears have a young, ascending defense and sees Chicago's scheme as one that would allow him to do what he does best.

"The Chicago Bears, their defense, from what I was seeing, their defense is built around the pass rush, so being a pass rusher on that team, you get a lot of freedom and opportunities," Turner said.

Turner said he models his game after several top-tier pass rushers, including Nick Bosa, Bradley Chubb, and free-agent-to-be Danielle Hunter, who is expected to draw interest from the Bears.

While Caleb Williams and the Bears' decision at No. 1 continues to suck up all the oxygen, their choice at No. 9 will also carry significant weight.

The addition of Sweat last season gave the Bears' pass-rush the teeth it lacked since the departure of Khalil Mack at the start of the rebuild.

Verse, Turner, or Latu would be a tremendous compliment to Sweat and inch Poles one step closer to completing his grand Chicago defensive reconstruction.

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