Sweat, 27, is in the last year of his contract, and the Commanders are opting for a draft pick now rather than a compensatory selection they might receive if Sweat signed elsewhere as a free agent next year.
The news of the trade comes hours after sources told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler that the Bears granted cornerback Jaylon Johnson permission to seek a trade. Johnson, 24, is in the final year of his rookie contract and said he is looking for "respect and security" in the form of a new deal.
The trade injects talent into Chicago's league-worst pass rush at the halfway point of the season. The Bears replaced three of their four starters along the defensive line ahead of the 2023 season in free agency and spent second- and third-round draft picks on defensive tackles Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens. The Bears have an NFL-low 10 sacks this season and 46 pressures, which ranks 30th.
Through eight games, Sweat has 6.5 sacks, bringing his career total to 35.5 over five seasons.
Chicago's 2024 second-round selection is currently the No. 35 pick in the draft. At the trade deadline in 2022, the Bears sent their own second-round pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for wide receiver Chase Claypool, who played in 10 games in Chicago. The Bears dealt Claypool to the Miami Dolphins after beating Washington in Week 5.
For the Commanders, the move is a nod to their losing record and the difficulty of keeping their defensive line intact. Sweat and defensive end Chase Young are both free agents after this season. Washington already has given out big contracts to defensive tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen in the past two seasons.
In the offseason Washington had expressed a desire to extend Sweat, but with the ownership situation in flux -- Josh Harris did not take over until late July -- talks never developed. The Commanders also had told Young they would reward him if he had a productive season.
Because Washington remains optimistic about quarterback Sam Howell, it could leave the team with an inexpensive quarterback the next two seasons. That would have left cap space available for both Sweat and Young, but it also could have left the Commanders with an unbalanced pay structure -- with a heavy investment in the defensive line and thin in other spots.
Had Washington extended Sweat and used the franchise tag on Young, for example, it would have had three defensive linemen counting for more than $20 million against the cap next season -- and one offensive lineman over $10 million.
The high-priced line did not result in productive play by the defense. Washington does rank tied for sixth in the league with 25 sacks, but the Commanders rank 23rd in pass rush win rate. Among defensive linemen, Young ranks fifth in this area -- but none of his linemates are in the top 55.
Washington drafted Sweat with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, a pick obtained when the team traded back into the first round.
Sweat was an immediate full-time starter and has been productive, though he has yet to finish with more than nine sacks in a season. Sweat is one of seven players with at least five sacks in each of the last five seasons (since 2019), along with Chris Jones, Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, Maxx Crosby and Brian Burns, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
He's also considered a strong run defender and has been durable. Sweat missed seven games in 2021 when he suffered a broken jaw, sat out one game because of Covid and two others after his brother was shot and killed. But in his other four seasons Sweat hasn't missed a game.
The move cut ties with their most productive pass rusher this season and signaled a change in direction for the franchise, especially after agreeing to trade fellow defensive end Montez Sweat to the Chicago Bears for a 2024 second-round pick earlier in the day.
Young would have been a free agent after the season. Washington declined to pick up his fifth-year option in the offseason. It would have counted $17.452 million against the 2024 salary cap, but also would have been guaranteed money.
The 49ers are projected to get a compensatory third-round pick for offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and another compensatory third-round pick for the losses of Ran Carthon and Demeco Ryans, with one of those third-rounders being sent to Washington in exchange for Young, a source told Schefter.
Because there were lingering concerns about Young's right knee -- he tore the ACL and ruptured his patellar tendon in 2021 -- Washington was hesitant to make a commitment. Commanders coach Ron Rivera also said in the offseason that he hoped it would serve as motivation for Young to have a stronger season.
Young has five sacks in seven games after he missed the opener with a neck injury. Overall, in 34 games over his four seasons with Washington, Young had 14 sacks, 90 tackles and 6 forced fumbles (3 recoveries).
By trading Young and Sweat, the Commanders can turn their attention to quarterback Sam Howell, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract. That allows them to invest more at other spots.
Washington's defense ranks 31st in scoring and 29th in yards per game. If those rankings continue, it would be the worst defensive showing in franchise history. Washington has never finished ranked in the bottom four of both points and yards since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Washington does rank sixth in the league with 25 sacks but the Commanders are 23rd in pass rush win rate. Among defensive linemen, Young ranks fifth in this area -- but none of his linemates are in the top 55.
Washington opted for Young as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft rather than quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert in part because the franchise had drafted Dwayne Haskins the previous year in the first round. Though Rivera was hired in January 2020, the staff knew then-owner Dan Snyder was the one who wanted to draft Haskins.
Young produced as a rookie with 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He returned a fumble for a touchdown.
However, Young started slow in 2021 with only 1.5 sacks in the first nine games. He then injured his knee. It was initially believed to only be an ACL, but news surfaced later about his patellar tendon. Young started practicing again in November but did not play until the final three games.
Rivera said multiple times Young had to regain confidence in his knee, even after doctors had cleared his return.