The Chicago Bears are still in need of at least one prominent edge rusher, and the trade market is starting to look like the most viable option.
Both head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles have stated publicly and recently that the team will add a pass rusher to the mix this summer. There are more big-name free agents available at the position than usual in 2023, but nearly all are on the wrong side of 30. If Chicago really wanted any of them, the franchise would probably have signed one by now, which feeds into the notion that the Bears are looking to make a bigger splash with a younger acquisition.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter of SB Nation’s Windy City Gridiron on Thursday, June 1, floated a trade proposal that would see Chicago acquire Pro Bowler Brian Burns from the Carolina Panthers ahead of next season.
The Bears are no strangers to pulling major trades for game-wrecking edge defenders late into the offseason, including Adewale Ogunleye in August of 2004, and Khalil Mack … in 2018. Both those players, especially Mack, were considered untouchable until they were dealt. The Bears inquired about Brian Burns with the Carolina Panthers during their negotiations for the first overall pick.
As of today, the Panthers seem determined to make Burns fit into their plans on a rebuilding defense — a defensive scheme I’m not too sure he will be a great fit within. But he’s owed a new contract soon. Plenty can change between now and August.
Brian Burns Set to Earn Huge Contract After Impressive Start to NFL Career
Burns is a former first-round pick out of Florida State in 2019. Since entering the NFL, the defensive end has earned two Pro-Bowl trips (2021, 2022) and watched the Panthers pick up his fifth-year option for the 2023 campaign, in which Burns will earn just north of $16 million.
As noted above, Burns will hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2024. The Panthers will have the option of using the franchise tag to hold onto their pass rusher if paying him huge money doesn’t fit in precisely with the timeline of their rebuild. However, sooner than later, Burns will command a massive long-term deal.
Spotrac projects Burns’ market value at $18.3 million annually over the life of a four-year contract. Given his age and production level at a premium position, however, that figure could actually prove low.
Burns has missed just two games across his four-year NFL tenure. He has amassed a total of 38 sacks and 121 quarterback pressures during that time and has gotten better with each year, posting a career-high of 12.5 sacks in 2022, per Pro Football Reference. He also has 11 pass breakups, seven forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown on his resumé.
Brian Burns is Perfect Fit for Bears Defense in Several Ways
Burns could not fit any better with a team than he would as a member of the Bears. There are several reasons for this.
He rushes the passer at an elite level from the defensive end position, which works with Chicago’s 4-3 base defense. He is also a complete player at the position, meaning he can set the edge and be an effective defender on rushing downs as well as in passing situations.
Burns will play five more seasons before turning 30 and never gets hurt. He will soon be looking for a huge multiyear contract, and Chicago is in a position to pay him that deal.
The timelines link up as well. The Bears may not be a serious contender in 2023, but Poles has added talent around franchise quarterback Justin Fields, namely Burns’ former teammate wide receiver D.J. Moore, and to the second-level of the defense in linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Chicago also has a handful of promising young players in its secondary.
The Bears are young and talented at important positions on the roster, with a lot of salary cap space and a boatload of quality draft picks at their disposal over the next couple of years. More than that, they currently play in one of the league’s weaker divisions in the NFC North.
If winning is important to Burns, and it is a safe bet that it is, the Bears can offer him a bright future that aligns with the prime of his career. It really is a match made in heaven, assuming Chicago can pry Burns from the clutches of his current team.