Washington Post (Paywall)
During the 2020 NFL draft, when the Commanders abandoned their franchise quarterback need and selected Chase Young at No. 2, they aimed to create a superpower along the defensive front just as the San Francisco 49ers had done to build a Super Bowl team after drafting Nick Bosa to their already ultra-talented unit. And now, less than 3½ seasons into the project, Washington has traded Young — to San Francisco! — for a third-round pick.
Ron Rivera, as the coach and personnel czar, started his tenure by making Young his first draft pick instead of quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. And by the time a trade-deadline fire sale concluded Tuesday, the team had dealt Young and 2019 first-rounder Montez Sweat in moves designed to construct a future that probably doesn’t include Rivera.
Miscalculations — and poor player development — have boomeranged on the Commanders. They cannot avoid being hit right between the eyes.
Washington has drafted 16 defensive players, six of whom were taken in the first three rounds. Three are currently starters: Curl, linebacker Jamin Davis and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste.
The mediocre batting average on these prospects would be understandable, though still unsatisfactory, if they had been offensive prospects. You could rationalize it as Rivera, a coach with a defensive background who was given the keys to an entire franchise for the first time, making mistakes outside of his expertise. But Rivera came to Washington in 2020 after orchestrating a solid defensive-driven era with the Carolina Panthers, and he inherited the trio of Allen, Payne and Sweat. He had the No. 2 pick and he hired Del Rio, who had a good résumé as a coordinator and a reputation for deploying talent properly.
Rivera needed only to do a competent job to forge a defensive identity. However, Del Rio and the defensive staff seem behind the times on some days, and they appear unable to meet players where they are on others. The Commanders are aligned only in underperformance.
This is Josh Harris’ team, in case you weren’t aware...
Rivera has had the final say on personnel since becoming head coach. He was tasked with steadying the ship and restoring a sense of respectability to the football operation by previous owner Dan Snyder, which he did relatively well despite not attaining a winning season.
Now, things have changed.
And that is bad news for his long-term future with the franchise.
This is a clear sign of Rivera’s power officially waning when it comes to football matters. He remains the head coach - for now, at least - but the experienced figure should be all too aware that Washington kicking off their rebuild under Harris probably won’t include him when push comes to shove.
Harris’ fingerprints are all over this. He’s taken time to assess and learn the ropes since purchasing the franchise for $6.05 billion, but there have been signs of action in recent weeks that began with the hiring of analytics guru Eugene Shen and continued with trading the Commanders’ starting defensive end tandem.
It’s not what Rivera signed up for, in all honesty. But with no winning seasons and five losses already in 2023, a change was needed, and is welcome to finally get this once-proud organization trending in the right direction.
No more half-measures. No more band-aid fixes. No more flattering to deceive. It’s time for a concise, long-term plan to get the Commanders back to the NFL’s top table.
The Athletic (paywall)
The Commanders intended to keep Sweat, the team’s sack leader with 6.5 through eight games. But when the Chicago Bears called with an offer of a 2024 second-round pick — which projects at No. 35 — the Commanders couldn’t pass, said a team source who was granted anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak publicly.
With Young, Washington was less conflicted. Even after trading Sweat, the Commanders — following conversations with coach Ron Rivera and new managing partner Josh Harris — dealt the No. 2 selection from the 2020 NFL Draft to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2024 third-round selection, a compensatory pick at the end of the round.
Viewing the trades together, Washington shrunk its chances of a turnaround in 2023. However, the team sees trading Young as a potential addition by subtraction, the source said. Even amid Young’s strong season, there are lingering concerns about his durability and on-field discipline, which is partly why Sweat was the more sought-after pass rusher in trade discussions this week, league sources said.
The Commanders might have garnered third-round compensatory picks in 2025 if Young and Sweat left via free agency, but that allure did not sway them. They have two 2024 selections in hand. Spending heavily in free agency — a likely outcome, as the team ranks fourth in 2024 cap space ($92.5 million), per Over the Cap — might have wiped out those high compensatory picks, anyway. Adding picks in the second and third rounds means Washington has nine selections total in 2024 and five in the first three rounds.
“If acquiring capital was the goal of the day, they won the day,” a front-office executive with another team said.
Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)
Taking a closer look at LG Chris Paul’s performance to break down if the changes to the offensive line had a significant impact on the performance of the offense.
Just because the offense suddenly became significantly more productive doesn’t mean it was down to the two offensive line changes. This is a prime example of correlation does not equal causation. To prove that point, I want to focus on the performance of Chris Paul, as many of you have asked me how he played in place of Charles. I’ll be completely up front in saying I wrote that I would have gone with Paul over Charles to start the season at left guard. However, Paul replacing Charles was not the reason the offense was productive.
This is the touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder late in the game. Off the snap, the defensive tackle uses a little stutter step move to try and disrupt the timing of Paul’s feet and hands. It works perfectly as Paul shifts his weight outside and then back inside while his hands go high and wide. This leaves him off balance and exposes his chest entirely. The defender takes full advantage and quickly engages, landing a punch on Paul’s exposed chest while he;s off balance. This knocks Paul over completely and he loses the block early. He’s lucky that the defender ends up tripping over his legs as he falls and that Leno is there to help him out too.
Despite being completely run over, Howell bails him out by calmly sliding to his left to buy some extra time and avoid the pressure before delivering his best throw of the day to Crowder in the end zone for a touchdown.
That last bit is the important note to take away from this game. Paul and Larsen replacing Charles and Gates respectively weren’t huge factors in the uptick in performance. Larsen may have had a bigger impact if he was getting the protection calls targeted correctly, but only those in the building will know if that was the case. In reality, their play wasn’t largely different from the level that Charles and Gates had been playing at, perhaps that Giants game aside where both had their worst performances of the season.
The real difference in the performance was the efficiency with which Howell played. All season, the case has been that the offensive line has generally done well enough to afford Howell time to get the ball out within the structure of the play, but they aren’t good enough to sustain blocks long beyond that. A large chunk of the sacks Howell has taken have been as a result of him not getting the ball out on time for one reason or another.
In this game, he was extremely efficient and the result of that was he cut down his sacks from averaging nearly six a game to just one in this game. That’s a remarkable turnaround and suggests there’s potential for Howell to improve on what is his biggest flaw right now. That should be the exciting focus of the fanbase.
Fowler: No colossal losers here, but I’ll point to a pair of teams in the NFC South. Atlanta had its sights set on Sweat, but Washington went with Chicago’s offer. That left the Falcons without much-needed pass-rush help. And my understanding is Atlanta was willing to extend Sweat’s contract as part of the deal and that Sweat wanted to go to Atlanta, where he has family. All of that fell through.
Graziano: Coach Ron Rivera and the Commanders’ front office are the biggest losers of the deadline. Trading either Sweat or Young made sense. They weren’t going to be able to sign both, and you’re not allowed to franchise more than one player per year. So at least one of them was going to leave in free agency. But dealing both sends a very different message.
This is new ownership deciding future-focused assets (i.e., draft picks) are more important than win-now personnel, even if the “now” includes 2024. Josh Harris, whose previous sports ownership forays included the famous “Process” with the Philadelphia 76ers, is thinking about the future, and that spells bad news for a coaching staff and a front office that he didn’t hire. It’s going to be even tougher for Rivera to win games the rest of this season, and I would think we can expect big changes in Washington this offseason as well.
Fowler: My sense is Monday was a very difficult day at Washington headquarters. The front office was tasked with moving two pivotal players while essentially knowing it might not be able to use the picks it acquired, due to uncertain futures.
Washington still wants to win this season, despite what trading Chase and Sweat may look like. The Commanders did not want to unload all of their pending free agents because they want to compete in 2023. That’s one reason, a team source said, they did not trade backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett; in case something happens to starter Sam Howell, they want to be covered. Washington coach Ron Rivera has made it clear how much he values Brissett.
The extra draft capital gives them the ability to either collect more young talent — or be aggressive if they want to trade up. Owner Josh Harris, who also owns the Philadelphia 76ers, has watched the Philadelphia Eagles operate in this manner.
Why did Commanders trade both of their defensive ends?
Both would be free agents this offseason and, based on these moves, the team no longer wanted to invest as heavily in one position group. Washington already had paid two other first-round picks along the front in Payne and Allen. The group was supposed to provide the foundation for defensive success. But Rivera was honest when asked if they had played to the level he anticipated this season.
“Not consistently enough,” he said. “You see it, but you’ve gotta see it all the time and that’s really the mark of when it really comes together, is that it’s consistent.”
But, while Sweat and Young had combined for 11.5 sacks this season, the team had lost five of its last six games.
There were also concerns about the lack of on-field chemistry among the starting defensive line, multiple sources said. According to multiple sources, when Rivera said three weeks ago that their mantra of “Do Your Job” was directed as much at the defensive line as any group, Young was a particular target of that message; one source said they viewed trading him as “addition by subtraction.”
The Commanders in the trades received Chicago’s second-round 2024 choice. As it stands on Oct. 31, through eight weeks, the Bears draft position is now third. Which means, if this same order persists, the Commanders would now be holding to a draft pick that will be 37th overall and fifth in the second round.
Consequently, as of Tuesday, the Commanders would draft in the 11th position (their own position) and then again at 37th, very early in the second round.
How about the Chase Young trade? Young brings to Washington the 49ers’ third-round compensatory selection. This pick is currently listed as the third overall compensatory selection and 98th overall.
Thus, if Washington stands pat, not trading away their draft selections they now own, they currently possess selections number 11 in the first round, selections 37 and 42 in round two, and selections 73 and 98 in round three.
Now, of course, these primary positions will be available for the Commanders, but it will depend upon the new general manager not yet hired, and his staff of scouts and coaches also not yet hired.
Chase Young hadn’t even had time to leave the DMV on Tuesday after the news broke that the Washington Commanders agreed to trade him to the San Francisco 49ers before the negative stories started coming out.
Shortly after Young’s trade, Ben Standig of The Athletic published an article analyzing Washington’s trades of Young and Montez Sweat, and one thing in particular stood out.
However, the team sees trading Young as a potential addition by subtraction, the source said. Even amid Young’s strong season, there are lingering concerns about his durability and on-field discipline.
Nothing Standig said was wrong here. There have long been concerns about Young’s durability and on-field discipline. However, it was the “addition by subtraction” excerpt that stood out.
Was this necessary on the day of Young’s trade?
Podcasts & videos
Episode 690 - A seismic day for the #Commanders. Josh Harris has made it clear: the status quo is unacceptable.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) November 1, 2023
Guest: @BenStandig with great intel on the trades, including a team source saying trading Chase Young is "potential addition by subtraction."https://t.co/ns0gZAniUm
️That was some NFL trade deadline -- and this is some episode covering all the of the Commanders' angles w/ @NickiJhabvala. Trading Sweat or Young seemed likely. Both? Why? What the moves say about Josh Harris's input. New draft capital. What about ROS?https://t.co/Jg4yXHv9xR— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) November 1, 2023
PFF’s Trevor Sikkema gives Craig Hoffman an idea of where the Commanders could use their newly-added draft capital
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Trade Montez Sweat and Chase Young for NFL Draft Picks from 49ers and Bears
NFC East links
Bleeding Green Nation
Trick: The Commanders have a better record (2-3) when they score 24 or fewer points than they do when scoring 31 or more points (1-3).
Treat: Sam Howell is the new Kirk Cousins. Against the Eagles:
Kirk Cousins per game average vs the Eagles: 303 yards, 101.3 passer rating, 2.4 TDs
Sam Howell per game average vs the Eagles: 343 yards per game, 107.2 passer rating, 2.5 TDs
Zombie pass catcher: Jamison Crowder. From 2015-2018, Crowder had 2628 receiving yards for [the Redskins], making him the best WR the team drafted since Rod Garner in 2001. This year he has 116 in 9 games, 95 of which were on Sunday.
Trick: In September Coach of the Year™ Brian Daboll clearly took over play calling duties from offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and denied doing so. In October Coach of the Year™ Brian Daboll apparently took over coaching all the offensive position groups too. So what happened next? The Giants went from scoring a “this should get people fired” 11.5 points per game in September to scoring… 10.4 points per game in October. Mike Kafka, prepared to get scapegoated during the bye at the beginning of December.
Treat: It’s not all bad! After catching just 6 interceptions in all of 2022 and none in September of 2023, the Giants defense is on fire, they caught 4 interceptions in October. So hey, that’s working for them. It helps to play against Josh Allen, Sam Howell, (both 2nd in the league in INTs with 8), and Tua Tagovailoa (8th in INTs with 7). Real murder’s row of ball control there.
But cheer up, the Giants are currently in position to draft the third choice in a two QB draft! The 20 point comeback against the Cardinals in Week 2 looms large.
Zombie pass catcher: Darren Waller. In 74 games before joining the Giants Waller averaged 12 yards per catch. In 8 with the Giants as their prized offseason addition, he is averaging 10.7. Oh, also, he’s hurt again.
Trick: The Eagles, with all their star players on offense and their top tier offensive line, are just 18th in red zone offense, converting 51.5% of trips into touchdowns. They should be embarrassed.
Treat: The good news is that despite the struggles, the Eagles have the 5th most red zone TDs, because they have the 2nd most trips to the red zone. That’s certainly better than struggling to get there. And they have the 5th most non-red zone TDs. There are worse situations to be in.
Zombie pass catcher: Julio Jones. In 10 seasons with the Falcons from 2011-2020, Jones caught a TD in nearly half his games. So far with the Eagles Jones has caught a TD in half his games. Clearly prime the Eagles have signed prime Julio Jones, it’s science.
Trick: Mike McCarthy wants to run the ball more. The Cowboys have the 7th most rushing attempts per game, up from 6th most last year. Hold on, I’m being told that 6th to 7th is going down? Wow, great job there Mike.
Well maybe they’re running better? Nope, 18th in yards per attempt last year, 19th this year.
Or to put that in perspective:
Jalen Hurts: 3.6 yards per carry (which is deflated by the volume of QB sneaks that intentionally gain at most 2 yards), 6 rushing TD.
The Dallas Cowboys: 3.9 yards per carry, 5 rushing TD.
Treat: I have to say something nice here about the Cowboys because I formatted this post this way so here it goes:
The Cowboys are the most entertaining team in the NFL. There, I said it. They have scored 30+ points 4 times, but also 20 or fewer in all their other games. They multiple games with 0 TDs given up and multiple games with 4+ TDs given up. In 4 of their 7 games they have 3+ takeaways or 3+ turnovers. In 5 of their 7 games at least one of the teams puts up 377+ yards. They have as many non-offensive TDs as they do rushing TDs. You might not see a good performance, but you’ll see an entertaining one!
Zombie pass catcher: Brandin Cooks. Averaging 1000 yards a season and 13.7 yards per reception over his career, Cooks was brought in to help replace the void the Cowboys could not fill after trading away Amari Cooper. In case you were wondering, the Cowboys gave up more to get him then they got for Amari Cooper. So how is he doing? Cooks is 130th in receiving yards and has a 9.9 yards per reception rate.
NFL league links
Las Vegas has fired head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager David Ziegler, owner Mark Davis announced in a statement.
“After much thought about what the Raiders need to move forward, I have decided to part ways with Josh and Dave,” Davis’ statement read. “I want to thank them both for their hard work and wish them and their families nothing but the best.”
Las Vegas later named linebackers coach Antonio Pierce to the role of interim head coach. Pierce is in just his second year coaching at the NFL level, but he is a well-respected presence and former Pro Bowler, having played nine seasons at LB split between Washington and the New York Giants.
McDaniels and Ziegler were hired together following the 2021 season with the expectation that they would improve a Las Vegas roster that made its first trip to the postseason since 2016. The two already had a working relationship, with McDaniels serving as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator from 2012-2021 and Ziegler having worked in New England’s scouting and personnel departments since 2013.
They were also meant to provide stability, as even with the success of a playoff berth by their predecessor, interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, the Raiders were coming off a tumultuous year that included the resignation of Jon Gruden midseason.
Instead, the two oversaw a franchise that produced a 9-16 record through 25 games, including a 3-5 start to the 2023 season.
Washington Post (paywall)
Winner: Washington Commanders owner Josh Harris
Just three months into his tenure as Washington’s new owner, Harris made it clear his attention is trained squarely on the future as he traded away both of his starting edge rushers, Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Sweat, the 26th pick of the 2019 draft, went to the Chicago Bears for a 2024 second-round pick. Young, the second pick of the 2020 draft, went to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2024 third-round pick.
Sweat and Young are skilled, but neither would classify as dominant, and both have expiring contracts. So Washington’s ability to get two early-round picks for a tandem it was unlikely to retain is a win — particularly the Chicago second-rounder, which is likely to be among the first few selections of that round. Harris, who now has five picks in the first 100 selections of the draft, is collecting building blocks for the future.
Loser: Ron Rivera
Rivera called Young a generational talent when the head coach drafted him over quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa at a time when Washington badly needed a franchise passer (and still does). But Young, who has never improved on the 7 1/2 sacks of his rookie season, has yet to live up to expectations and has struggled to stay on the field. Harris clearly influenced this pick with an eye on the future. The rebuild and loss of their top edge rushers signals impending doom for the Commanders (3-5), who will struggle even more to win games. Washington’s draft selection order has improved, but based on Rivera’s results, it’s unlikely he will be on hand to help oversee the impending rebuild.
Loser: Chicago Bears
Sweat is a good player, but people around the league don’t view him as elite. He has yet to record a double-digit sack season and entered 2023 averaging 7.25 per year. And then there’s the matter of his contract. He’ll be a free agent next offseason, so this very well could be a nine-game rental for the Bears, who aren’t in position to contend for a deep playoff run.
Adding Sweat is a curious decision that certainly raised eyebrows around the league — and not for good reasons.
After trading a 2nd-round pick for a second straight season, Ryan Poles needs his new pass rusher to be the answer
For the Bears, there has been nowhere for their defense to fall the last two seasons. They had the worst DVOA in the NFL last season and are 30th in 2023. The biggest problem has been their lack of pass rush. They tried to remedy the problem by signing journeyman defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and DeMarcus Walker during the offseason. Through eight weeks, the Bears have the least number of sacks — 10 — and third-lowest QB pressures — 46.
Sweat is top 10 in the NFL in both sacks and pressure, improving on his eight-sack, 2022 season. His world is going to change very quickly. No longer is he part of an entire group that is highlighted on the scouting report. Sweat will be considered the top priority to stop by every offense the Bears play the rest of this season.
Also, for the second season in a row, the Bears have traded a second-round pick at the deadline. Last year they still ended up with two picks in that round, but the pick they traded turned out to be No. 33 overall. They used it to draft promising cornerback Joey Porter Jr., who still needs some serious work on tackling. Also, they received Chase Claypool in return whom they traded to the Miami Dolphins for a can of dolphin-safe tuna.
Sweat has produced like one of the best pass rushers in the league this season, and is well on the way to the first double-digit sack total of his career. Poles is hoping that adding that type of talent can bolster the rest of the pass-rush closer to a league-average level.
Over the Cap
Montez Sweat to Chicago for a 2nd round pick
This was a surprising trade. Chicago is going nowhere this year and made a splashy trade. It is the second time in two years that the Bears made this type of trade and last year’s trade turned out to be a disaster (Chase Claypool).
Trades like this do little but give you an exclusive negotiating window with a pending free agent. You give up so much for the player, though, that not signing him would be a mess and it gives all leverage to the agent side in a negotiation.
The Bears 2nd round pick should be a high one so this will probably cost the Bears around 1,200 points in draft capital. That gives Washington around a 20% chance of finding a star and a mid 40% chance of finding a quality player. Washington had few options here since they either needed to trade him or extend him. They have way too much cap room next year to have considered receiving a comp pick and if they are going to rebuild the draft pick is much more useful.
Did the Bears really need an exclusive window? I doubt it but they must have been convinced he was going to be traded and sign an extension with a new team. Chicago has tons of cap room and are probably going to make him one of the top paid players at the position anyway. I’d call this an overpayment by the Bears and a good trade for Washington.
Chase Young to the 49ers for a compensatory 3rd round pick
The 49ers got a good deal here from Washington who probably were not getting a ton of interest for Young. Unlike the Bears, the 49ers are in a playoff run and can use help and can justify shipping off assets to chase a ring. Young gives the team tremendous upside and the cost is very low at just $561K this year. The draft capital cost is about 680 points. That carries about an 8% chance of finding a star and 23% chance of finding at least a solid player.
This is a very different trade from the player’s perspective. Odds are Sweat will be extended. Young is playing for a new deal and has to earn it. Despite being a near the top of the draft selection, Young only brought back a late 3rd which tells you many teams are scared off and do not see a long or short term here. Young will have a great opportunity to be the “missing piece” for San Francisco and then cash in, but if he does not the results may be really poor for him.
There is usually at least one team in the NFL that will overpay for a player selected near the top of the draft usually blaming the failure of the player on the poor organization he played with. However, that only carries if you played with just one team. His stock will drop if he flops with the 49ers. The best example of this was Jadeveon Clowney who I think is similar to Young. Clowney battled injuries early and never really lived up to the great hype. Clowney also went for just a 3rd round pick and when he did not standout in Seattle his market fell apart and he never recovered. Young runs that same risk and his career has not been as good as Clowney’s was at this point in time.
The other misguided aspect of this trade discussion is the assumption that if Young becomes a free agent that the 49ers will just get a 3rd round pick back making this a free trade. I think it is pretty clear that the 49ers getting him for a 3 means that most teams don’t see the need to go that high. If he flops there may be little in return. If he is just ok its probably a 4th or 5th. Those are still good options but a 3rd coming back in 2025 only happens if he is great.
This one is a win-win for both sides. It’s a fair gamble for San Francisco while Washington gets something in 2024 when they probably would have gotten nothing at all if they let him leave in free agency.