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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Bryan Manning

Ron Rivera talks how difficult it was to trade Montez Sweat

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera never wanted to trade defensive end Montez Sweat. Rivera and his staff long praised Sweat — traded to the Chicago Bears Tuesday for a 2024 second-round pick — and wanted to work out a long-term agreement for him to remain in Washington.

Unfortunately for Rivera, the team’s ownership situation prevented the Commanders from working on any long-term deals throughout the spring and summer until Josh Harris and his group officially took over on July 20.

Once Harris arrived, his focus was on the 2023 season and making immediate improvements to FedEx Field and the fan experience. That meant contract discussions with key 2024 free agents, such as Sweat, Kamren Curl, and others, wasn’t on the immediate agenda.

Over the past few weeks, it became increasingly clear that the 2023 Commanders weren’t contenders. Losses to the lowly Chicago Bears and New York Giants proved this was another middling team. That’s why the Commanders were willing to listen to offers for their upcoming free agents, namely Sweat and Chase Young.

On Wednesday, the Commanders returned to practice to prepare for their Week 9 game against the New England Patriots. Sweat and Young were no longer a part of the franchise. At his post-practice presser Wednesday, Rivera reflected on trading Sweat to the Bears.

“Trading Montez was a really tough decision, but something that we felt was in the best interest of the football team,” Rivera said.

“We really appreciate everything Montez had did for us. A heck of a football player came in and did some nice things and really fit well. But again, football’s a very difficult business, and a lot of things change and things happen, and so we made the decision. Really do appreciate everything that Montez did for us and wanna wish him the best in Chicago as he finishes up his opportunities there.”

It’s important to note Rivera did mention Young but couldn’t discuss the move because it wasn’t complete yet. The 49ers are on a bye this week.

With Young and Sweat gone, James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill, both of whom have played plenty of snaps for the Commanders, will move into starting roles.

Rivera is confident in both of the fourth-year defensive ends.

“Yes, for the most part, we really just talked about opportunity, and as well as some of the younger guys too, they’re going to get chances to step out on the field and play a little bit more as well,” Rivera said on his conversations with Smith-Williams and Toohill.

“I think that’s the thing that’s exciting is really to find out where that is.”

Sweat and Young will be missed, but Harris is clearly focused on the long-term future of the franchise.

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