Before Sweat ever played a down for Chicago, the team awarded him with a four-year, $98 million contract that gives him an average salary of $24.5 million per year in new money — just north of what Rashan Gary received in his extension with the Green Bay Packers. Over the first three years of their new deals, Gary will receive $65.5 million compared to Sweat’s $63.1 million — which means it’s not “funny money,” either.
With that in mind, let’s compare the two players. Personally, I don’t think that Sweat is in the same tier as Gary as an edge defender, but let’s check some third-party sources to make sure I’m not being biased. In the summer, Pro Football Focus dropped their edge rusher rankings, which listed Gary, coming off a since healed ACL tear, as their eighth overall player at the position while they slotted in Sweat as a “Tier 3” player. Here’s what they had to say about Gary:
Gary missed time last season, but over the past two years, he ranks sixth in pass-rush grade (90.2), fourth in pass-rush win percentage (19.7%) and second in pass-rush productivity.
If you want a more recent set of rankings, Pro Football Network ranked Montez Sweat as the 26th edge defender just last week. For perspective, according to Spotrac, the only edge defenders set to make more per season than Sweat on their current deals are Nick Bosa, T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett, the best every-down players in the league at the position — outside of maybe Las Vegas’ Maxx Crosby. Yikes.
As I wrote at the time that Gary’s extension was announced, his new deal with the Packers was about as good as Green Bay could have asked for. He got just north of the likes of Bradley Chubb, a player who is also not in his tier as a pass-rusher, but didn’t push the edge rusher market forward in any significant way. The Packers paid the market rate for Gary just before a projected boom for pass-rushers, due to the volume of expiring contracts at the position.
With Sweat’s deal on record, you can go ahead and assume that players like Carolina’s Brian Burns and Jacksonville’s Josh Allen — who could be unrestricted free agents this offseason — are going to make significantly more than what Gary agreed to.
Sometimes timing is everything. Had Sweat been traded and extended a week or two earlier, who knows if Gary and his representation would have even agreed to the terms that they did, knowing what Sweat would eventually get without even having hit free agency. Hindsight is 20/20, but I sure bet that the folks at Lombardi Avenue are happy they got the Gary deal done when they did. As new edge defender contracts come rolling in next season, they’ll probably be counting their blessings.