This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
ASHBURN, Va. – Washington Commanders entered 2021 in hopes of building on a season with seven wins, albeit one with an NFC East title attached. They are entering the 2022 season in hopes of removing the stench of another season of seven wins along with a third-place finish in the division. They managed a winning streak of four games to equalize their record of 6-6 on their way down the stretch. But injuries, COVID-19 and dull red zone play resulted in a 1-4 finish.
Washington’s defense did not live up to expectations, except for a six-game stretch in the middle of the season. A talented line did not play together as well as it had hoped; the secondary had too many new parts to intervene immediately; the linebackers were inconsistent. Washington’s defense finished in eighth place in allowed points, 22nd in allowed yards and 31st in third-down conversion rate.
Injuries ruined the offense, starting in the opening with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, though Taylor Heinicke filled in admirably. The team also lost key goals such as tight-end Logan Thomas (hamstring, ACL), running back JD McKissic (neck) and receiver Curtis Samuel, who handled a snout or hamstring injury almost all season. The result: a foul ranked 23rd in points and Total QBR, 21st in yards and 26th in the red zone.
They have work to do.
Expected salary cap: $ 33,253,858
Top Free Agents: Fitzpatrick, McKissic, G Brandon Scherff, S Bobby McCain, LB Jon Bostic, WR Adam Humphries, WR / KR DeAndre Carter, TE Ricky Seals-Jones, OL Cornelius Lucas, DT Tim Settle
Potential cutback candidates: Security Landon Collins has a hit of $ 16.2 million this season. Washington wants him back – Commanders loved him in a hybrid security / linebacker role and considers him a dynamic player – but that number will be hard to swallow, so if he returns, it would most likely be with a lower cap -speak up. Guard Ereck Flowers’ cap figure jumps from $ 2.98 million to $ 9.98 million, but instead of cutting him, they would do well to extend him and lower his cap hit.
The big question: Where does Washington find his quarterback? Coach Ron Rivera has made no secret of his desire to be aggressive in ending Washington’s decades-long quarterback search – they are on 32 starters and counting since the franchise last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. But it’s going to be hard to find that guy. There are rumors of big names like Russell Wilson, but Seattle should not trade him and must be blown away by an offer. Houston’s Deshaun Watson, the defendant in 22 civil cases brought by women in four states alleging sexual assault and misconduct, is another option, but the legal issues are significant and he would have to waive a no-trade clause. It’s possible that the best veteran option will be 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, which is available through trade.
There’s the draft, too, and Kenny Pickett would be thrilled if he sticks to the 11th pick. Or they could pick a bridge veteran and draft a quarterback – Desmond Knight maybe after the first round. Either way, it is not considered a large class, and that makes Washington’s quest challenging.
Best off-season scenario: They find a quarterback who will lead them for the next five years – or more – and, for the first time in a while, excite their fan base. They sign McKissic, Humphries and Carter again and strengthen the line (Scherff is likely to resign). They also find a real middle linebacker to lead the defense and find a way to keep Collins and McCain that are not going to be expensive.
Worst case offseason scenario: They end up with a mediocre bridge quarterback and another selected after the first round, meaning there is no guarantee they have solved that position. They have to get this right. They see Heinicke as a low-end starter and high-end backup; what they need is a clear upgrade and no more Band-Aids.
Early look at the NFL draft from ESPN analyst Jordan Reid: Quarterback will remain the big topic of the offseason for the Commanders. Probably in search of an upgrade from Heinicke, the overall number 11 could be the place where the QB of the future is chosen. Washington is also looking for a true middle linebacker, even after spending a first-round pick on Jamin Davis last year. Watch out for linebackers if Washington finds a veteran quarterback elsewhere.
Top needs: QB, LB, DB
Top picks: No.11