ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Commanders have let teams, and the world, know what they want most this offseason: a quarterback. There’s no secret, not when coach Ron Rivera has pushed for this pursuit since the season ended.
Washington’s search for a long-term solution is decades in the making. The franchise has started 32 quarterbacks since winning the Super Bowl after the 1991 season and eight in the last three years. Rivera, entering the third year of his term, sees this as a time to be aggressive.
“They have a very good base,” said ESPN analyst and former general manager Mike Tannenbaum. “This is the time and the window to be a little bit aggressive.”
For the past four seasons, Washington has ranked last in total QBR. Not coincidentally, during that time Washington is 24-41 (26th in the NFL). Last season, with Taylor Heinicke starting, Washington (7-10) ranked 23rd in total QBR. Washington considers him either a high-level backup or a low-level starter.
All of this is why, according to a source, Washington has reached out to every team to inquire about the availability of a quarterback and the cost. The team began its search with a roster of 42 quarterbacks. Here are some of the options:
Rivera has made a sales pitch to entice quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and possibly Deshaun Watson to consider Washington. Watson, who faces 22 sexual harassment and misconduct lawsuits, and Wilson have no-trade clauses. The Commanders will definitely go after Rodgers and Wilson.
Rivera will target an offensive line that has good depth and should remain solid even if right guard Brandon Scherff leaves via free agency. There’s also a 1,000-yard rusher (Antonio Gibson) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Terry McLaurin), plus a talented and relatively young defense.
Rivera has said in multiple interviews that his roster is in a good place to give up assets for a top quarterback.
“We prepare to protect the quarterback; you’ve got playmakers around you now, so let’s see if we can find that.” [quarterback] and hook that guy up and see what happens,” he said.
Of this group of quarterbacks, Wilson might be your best option. It’s hard to imagine the Packers trading Rodgers in the NFC, even if he agreed to the deal. Watson’s off-field situation remains unresolved, and the prospect of acquiring him would be exacerbated by Washington owner Dan Snyder’s situation with former employees alleging sexual misconduct.
Seattle doesn’t have to trade Wilson and coach Pete Carroll, 70, may not want much to start over with another quarterback. But for Washington, it is an opportunity to be aggressive and dream.
“Their seven forwards are really good. McLaurin is a little underrated,” Tannenbaum said of the Commanders. “They could use another piece or two, like most teams, but with Russell they’re in that conversation for the best team in the conference.”
San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo could be the most successful quarterback traded this offseason, with Trey Lance set to succeed him from the 49ers. Garoppolo has started on two teams that reached the NFC Championship Game and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl (2019 season). But in his four full seasons in San Francisco, he played in 40 of a possible 65 games. That history of injuries will give Washington and other teams pause, considering they would have to give up a pick, or picks, to acquire him, as well as sign him to an extension. Tannenbaum said he would give up a second-round pick for Garoppolo.
There is speculation about the availability of other quarterbacks, led by Derek Carr (Raiders), Kirk Cousins (Vikings) and Carson Wentz (Colts), but the question for teams that would trade those quarterbacks is this: Whats Next? That’s why many sources don’t expect these quarterbacks to be traded unless their teams can acquire a clear upgrade.
That leaves Garoppolo. Washington and other interested teams must decide whether it’s better to give up picks and money for him or just sign a lower-cost free agent. The team that acquires him probably wouldn’t draft a quarterback and would assess his QB status every two years.
There are expected to be some experienced quarterbacks available, notably Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Mitchell Trubisky. They probably wouldn’t cost more than $10 million, saving cap space and working capital to keep building.
If Washington signs a free agent, it will most likely pair him with a rookie, possibly a second- or third-round pick.
Of this group, Bridgewater and Trubisky would make the most sense to Washington, in part because of the staff’s familiarity with them.
Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner served as Bridgewater’s position coach for three years in Minnesota, and executive vice president of football/player personnel Marty Hurney was with Carolina in the 2020 offseason when he signed Bridgewater. .
New Washington tight ends coach Juan Castillo was with Trubisky for one season in Chicago, and Rivera remains close to Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott and Bills general manager Brandon Beane. They can provide a good perspective on Trubisky’s development after his only season in Buffalo. Washington left tackle Charles Leno played with Trubisky in Chicago.
ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky said he would pursue Trubisky because of his skill set “and his work ethic. And what he did in the preseason under good training.” [in Buffalo] compared to Chicago.
Opinions about Trubisky vary, but Orlovsky is not alone in pointing out how he was used in Chicago. He started 50 games and finished with 64 touchdowns and 37 interceptions for the Bears.
“Mariota and Trubisky are as good as Garoppolo, they just don’t have the body of work,” former NFL general manager Randy Mueller said. “I prefer to have my picks and build the rest of my team. This team is not a quarterback [like Garoppolo] far from a deep playoff team.
“Trubisky wasted his time in Chicago; he did him no service at all. He is better than we have seen, and he would say the same about Mariota too. Both guys are better than the multiple starters playing right now.” .”
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said signing Trubisky shouldn’t stop the Commanders from considering a quarterback with the 11th pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
“Trubisky is an interesting guy,” he said. “I’m sure he learned a lot. [in Buffalo]. He had some success with the Bears. Do you still take a QB at 11 when you bring [Trubisky] inside, because he is no guarantee… You are really speculative there. To think that you can suddenly recreate the few glimpses of a good quarterback game that we saw, I don’t know if you can go that route.
“You don’t need a backup plan for Jimmy G… You’re getting a middle quarterback that you can win with if the talent around him is good. The other guy you don’t know.” You pair him with a rookie.”
While this class lacks the obvious high-level quarterback, there are intriguing options, including Pitt’s. Kenny Pickett and that of freedom Malik Willis. Among other attributes on the field, Pickett’s age (he turns 24 in June) and experience (52 games played) are attractive to Washington. Willis might offer a higher ceiling, but will it take him longer to develop after playing at a smaller school? Will Washington want to wait that long? If he has a strong option for a bridge quarterback, then maybe he could be. In an ideal situation, Washington would pair quarterbacks with similar styles.
“There’s no real consensus on quarterbacks in this draft,” Kiper said. “Is he a quarterback worthy of being the 11th pick?”
Mueller thinks Pickett will go before Washington chooses: “My take on quarterbacks is he’s the only one,” he said.
If Washington takes a quarterback after the first round, Cincinnati Desmond Rider would be an option. Kiper said he would have elevated him to first- or second-best quarterback in this group if he had played better against Alabama in the 2021 college football playoff semifinal, instead saying Ridder seemed “overwhelmed” in the Cincinnati loss. by 27-6.
However, Kiper said: “The talent is there. Gives you a dual threat quarterback. He has as much talent as any quarterback in this draft. If you get him in the second or third round, he’s worthy of being a pick at that point. He is a mature guy: first in, last out and he works hard. There is a lot to work with. It is not a finished product.”
Regardless of which quarterback Washington ends up with, it will come after an exhaustive search. The hope of the Commanders? They don’t have to repeat it in 2023.
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Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers to commanders? Team exploring all QB options