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Commanders DE Montez Sweat named potential trade candidate ahead of 2023 NFL draft

When the Washington Commanders selected defensive linemen in the first round of four consecutive drafts, there was always going to come a time when tough decisions would need to be made.

Three years removed from Washington selecting defensive end Chase Young at No. 2 overall in the 2020 NFL draft, the Commanders have already made two big decisions.

In July 2021, Washington extended defensive tackle Jonathan Allen [2017 first-round pick] with a four-year deal worth $72 million. Just ahead of free agency two weeks ago, the Commanders extend defensive tackle Daron Payne on a four-year deal worth up to $90 million [2018].

Next up, presumably, would be defensive end Montez Sweat.

A first-round pick in 2019, Sweat has 29 career sacks in four seasons. While he has yet to record a double-digit sack season, Sweat’s combination of size, length and athleticism make him a freak. In addition, Sweat is an outstanding run defender. Most believe it’s only a matter of time before Sweat reaches 10 sacks or more.

So why hasn’t Washington opened up extension talks with Sweat yet? Well, this one is complicated. One, the Payne situation was the most pressing need as the Commanders had Sweat under contract for 2023. Next, there is the ownership situation. And third, there is Young. Washington hasn’t decided if it will pick up Young’s fifth-year option for 2024 yet, meaning he and Sweat could become free agents in 2024.

That situation means one of the two pass rushers could perhaps be a trade candidate. Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports named 14 veteran players who could be traded before or during the 2023 NFL draft next month. He named Sweat as one of those players.

In an ideal world, Sweat would build on a promising pass-rushing resume to earn a mega extension in Washington. But the Commanders are already paying top dollar to fellow D-linemen Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, and Chase Young is also onboard. With 29 sacks in five seasons and a career-high 28 QB hits in 2022, he could fetch premium compensation (potentially for a future QB splash) even entering a contract year. His departure would also save Washington an immediate $11.5M.

It’s not the worst idea and it is something that Washington should consider. And not because Sweat isn’t a terrific player. He is, and you want to keep those players around. However, Washington has already extended the best two players of the four thus far, which means the Commanders are likely deciding which player to keep long-term between Sweat and Young.

Head coach Ron Rivera is in win-now mode. Sweat helps you win games. Therefore, it’s unlikely he’d consider moving Sweat. That also makes sense. But Sweat’s trade value may never be higher. What if someone offered a second-round pick plus a conditional pick for Sweat? You’d need to consider such an offer if you haven’t opened up contract talks with Sweat. 

Here’s the problem for Washington: Once you extend Sweat, you are saying goodbye to Young. The Commanders likely want to see both play in 2023 before deciding on one. Young has more to prove, and Washington isn’t ready to give up on his vast potential. 

It will be a big season for each of Washington’s young defensive ends.

 

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire