May 6, 2022; Ashburn, Virginia, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera (R) talks with Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) during Washington Commanders rookie minicamp at Inova Performance Center In Ashburn, VA. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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Commanders deny downshift despite DE deals

Washington made waves at the trade deadline on Tuesday by dealing away the Commanders’ two most productive pass rushers this season, former first-round picks Chase Young and Montez Sweat.

Young, the No. 2 pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, was shipped to the San Francisco 49ers for a late third-round pick and Sweat netted Washington a second-round pick in return.

“I’ve gone through this before,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “Do we have that opportunity? I think this is what this is. It’s the same kind of opportunity.”

Rivera said the moves are part of a “paradigm shift” under new ownership. Josh Harris is bringing in elements of analytics and evaluating the merit of a deal like sending Young, in the final year of his contract, to the 49ers for a top-100 pick becomes a black-and-white decision. It also means the Commanders turn to fourth-year defensive ends Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams to start Sunday for Washington (3-5).

“It ain’t like we’re dropping. They’re some good players,” defensive tackle Daron Payne said.

The Commanders might not be ready to look forward, but the future was weighed in both trades. They set Washington up with five picks in the top 100 of the 2024 draft, and the Commanders could have as much as $88 million in salary cap space.

With growing support for quarterback Sam Howell, who makes just over $1 million per season through 2025, the Commanders are in the same maximum flexibility position the 49ers are with $700,000 quarterback Brock Purdy.

“It gives us a chance to spread (money) around and keep some of the guys that we want to keep … go after some of the guys we want to go after [in free agency) and draft who we want to draft,” Rivera said. “That’s pretty good for us going forward.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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