The Chicago Bears already made one blockbuster deal with the Carolina Panthers this year, and there’s a chance another could come down before 2023 is out.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported on Saturday, September 9, that the Panthers will not lock in Pro-Bowl edge rusher Brian Burns before the season begins, which is potentially positive news for any team interested in trading for him ahead of the mid-season deadline.
“The Carolina Panthers and pass-rusher Brian Burns are not expected to reach a deal before Sunday’s game vs. Atlanta, per sources,” Fowler posted on X, the social media website formerly known as Twitter. “After returning to practice this week amid the contract dispute, the expectation is Burns plays vs. Falcons barring surprise.”
Brian Burns Has Improved Each Season, Among NFL’s Elite Edge-Rushers
The Athletic’s NFL staff authored a collaborative story published on April 2 that detailed the Bears’ blockbuster trade with the Panthers, in which Chicago sent Carolina the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2023 in exchange for wide receiver D.J. Moore and a massive draft haul.
In that piece, the writers noted that Bears general manager Ryan Poles was equally as interested in Burns as he was in Moore, the latter of whom figures to be Chicago’s No. 1 wide receiver option as the team opens the season Sunday against the division rival Green Bay Packers.
It is easy to see why, as Burns has earned Pro-Bowl nods in each of the last two campaigns. The four-year NFL veteran has produced 121 pressures over the course of his career along with 77 QB hits and 38 sacks, per Pro Football Reference.
The 25-year-old put up career-highs in tackles (63), quarterback hits (22) and sacks (12.5) in 2022. He has also broken up 11 passes and forced seven fumbles since the Panthers selected him out of Florida State with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2019 draft.
Burns has already played out his initial four-year, $13.5 million rookie deal. However, the Panthers exercised their team option on a fifth year, which keeps Burns under contract through 2023 at the price of $16 million this season.
Bears Still in Need of Upgrades to D-Line, Pass Rush
Chicago remains thin on edge rushers despite addressing the defensive end position via free agency this offseason.
The Bears added DeMarcus Walker on a three-year, $21 million deal, who produced a career-high seven sacks for the Tennessee Titans in 2022. The team also signed Yannick Ngakoue to a one-year, $10.5 million contract after a 9.5-sack campaign with the Indianapolis Colts last season.
Ngakoue has been a stalwart pass-rusher over his seven years in the league, never finishing with fewer than eight sacks in a season. However, that the Bears signed the 28-year-old to just a one-year deal indicates that he is a stop-gap measure in 2023 and probably doesn’t have a long-term future in the Windy City.
Walker is more likely to stick in Chicago, but he is not a prolific pass-rusher and thus isn’t the answer to that particular hole in the Bears defense.
Chicago owns two first-round picks in 2024 — its own and the one it acquired from Carolina in the blockbuster trade earlier this year. It is feasible that if the Panthers don’t believe they can sign Burns long-term that Carolina might engage in trade talks for the edge-rusher for the right price — and a high first-round pick is a reasonable place to begin negotiations.
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