The 2021 season was supposed to be the year where the Washington Commanders took the next step as a competing team, at least within the NFC East. With their defense letting them down instead of helping lead the way, the Commanders also dealt with losing their starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a season-ending injury after attempting just six passes.
Needless to say, the 2021-22 football season was a letdown for Washington fans. Fitz going down gave Taylor Heinicke another chance to show what he can do, but even he faced some job uncertainty late in the season.
As of now, the only Commanders quarterback with a contract past this season is Heinicke and it’s safe to say, he won’t be the team’s long-term solution if they want to get back to the playoffs. Here are five starting quarterback options the Washington Commanders should pursue this offseason.
Washington Commanders draft and develop Matt Corral
One positive from falling short of expectations is the ability to select from elite players in the top half of the NFL draft. After a 7-10 season, the Washington Commanders will select 11th, barring a trade. With no consensus top quarterback projected to go in the top-five, this could mean Washington has a chance to get their pick of the litter.
There’s a lot of evaluating that still needs to be done before April’s player draft, but Matt Corral of Ole Miss could emerge as the top pick of the 2022 QB crop. Though, his leg injury in the Sugar Bowl could set him back, depending on the severity.
Corral is a leader in the truest sense, organizing player meetings, getting obsessed with his work, and generally displaying strong leadership qualities. As far as his physical traits, Corral is a threat to use his legs often, and while his speed isn’t anywhere near elite, he can pick up first downs at the next level. Sometimes his athletic skills hold him back mentally since he’s more prone to checking his first initial read, before bailing on the play or taking off with the ball.
Evaluating his passing skills, there are additional questions as to whether he can operate a pro offense having done a lot of RPO action in college. Yet, Corral has a good feel for the game and has enough arm strength to throw short and intermediate dimes.
Still, Corral would immediately offer a better starter than Washington currently has from the day he steps foot in the facility. After starting for three years in college for Lane Kiffin, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Corral can make a more immediate impact than a few other signal-callers in the 2022 draft class.
Washington Commanders trade for Tyler “Snoop” Huntley
- Washington Commanders trade: Jonathan Allen
- Baltimore Ravens trade: Tyler Huntley, 2022 fourth-round pick
Tyler “Snoop” Huntley has four career NFL starts on his résumé, but all four have featured some impressive moments. For an undrafted free agent, Huntley has already far surpassed any expectations for the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, some might argue he shares some similar qualities as Lamar Jackson, thanks to his blazing speed combined with his ability to complete off-schedule throws.
Though, any team wanting to pry him away from the Ravens may experience difficulties. He’s an exclusive-rights free agent after this season, meaning the Ravens can simply extend him any offer and he’s pretty much forced to take it. Huntley won’t be allowed to negotiate with any other teams.
But, that doesn’t mean a trade is impossible, it just might require some extra compensation due to him having an affordable contract and being under team control.
For the Commanders, they can afford to part with one of their deep rotation of defensive lineman, in fact, it’s probably their best avenue to improving the quarterback position. If they can somehow get in talks for one of the better quarterbacks available, they shouldn’t hesitate to include the 11th pick, a future first, and one of their talented defenders to reel in a big fish. But that’s not on the table for Huntley.
Washington Commanders acquire QB with Super Bowl experience
- Washington Commanders trade: 2022 second-round pick (42nd overall), 2023 third-round pick
- San Francisco 49ers trade: Jimmy Garoppolo
Head coach Ron Rivera may not love the idea of starting over with a young quarterback needing development. Another rough season and he could be on the hot seat. However, pivoting to a proven starter such as Jimmy Garoppolo could be a nice consolation prize, bridging the gap to their future.
Jimmy G has gone 33-14 in his regular season career as an NFL starter and 4-2 in the playoffs, though his durability is usually what lets him down. He’s made it through just one full season, coming in 2019 when he helped lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Still, the 49ers have made bigger contingency plans since, by trading three first-round picks for Trey Lance.
It seems increasingly unlikely that Garoppolo will return for another season in San Fran, even after taking them to the NFC Championship game.
- Jimmy Garoppolo contract (2022): $27 million cap hit, dead cap of just $1.4 million if cut or traded
Yet, Garoppolo has proven his merit as a starter, sometimes flashing enough talent to play like a Pro Bowl player at times. Unfortunately, he’s also inconsistent, though Garoppolo is still a lot better than what Washington has in their QB room. Acquiring Jimmy G would allow them to take a similar route as the 49ers did, drafting a quarterback and allowing him to develop.
In the meantime, Garoppolo is good enough to help them get back to the playoffs behind a strong defense and developing weapons such as Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin.
Baker Mayfield gets a change of scenery
- Washington Commanders trade: 2022 second round pick (42nd overall), 2023 conditional second round pick
- Cleveland Browns trade: Baker Mayfield
The Cleveland Browns have yet to commit long-term to Baker Mayfield as their quarterback. Set for free agency following the 2022 season, Mayfield has yet to establish himself as a franchise QB. One could argue his best year came in 2018 when he was a rookie.
Battling through injuries in 2021, Mayfield will need an excellent season to receive a massive payday in his next contract. Or, the Browns could decide to aim higher this offseason, should Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, or Russell Wilson become available.
Based on the possibility of the Browns adding a Pro Bowl QB, Mayfield would need a new home in 2022. Similar to determining his value in contract negotiations, agreeing on trade compensation could get just as complicated.
A former No. 1 overall pick just four seasons ago, Mayfield still offers untapped potential, and we’ve seen him play at a high level before. When the Philadelphia Eagles traded Carson Wentz after also experiencing drastic changes in his level of performance, they structured the deal based off playing-time.
If the Commanders are interested in trading for Mayfield, you can bet the agreement would be based on incentives. Whether it’s structured around playing time or accomplishments such as playoff appearances/wins could be the deciding factor.
It still seems unlikely the Browns are ready to move on from Mayfield, but if they do, the Washington Commanders should have interest. The potential for a breakout season is far too intriguing to pass up.
Washington Commanders usher in new era with new QB
We’ve heard about Washington wanting to add an elite quarterback for a number of seasons now, it hasn’t happened. Entering the year, Washington had high expectations, they didn’t meet them, due to various reasons.
Without a ton of internal change, they may be hoping that rolling the dice with a similar roster, but a healthier one can improve upon last season, while also knowing they need to drastically improve at QB. Yet, there’s more hope for a big trade this offseason than in recent seasons’ past.
Boasting roughly $40 million in cap space in addition to the 11th overall pick, the Commanders shouldn’t be afraid to swing for the fences to finally solve their quarterback woes.
As odd as it would be with the current Dan Snyder allegations, if the Commanders wanted to put a winning football team on the field, they would leave no stone unturned in pursuit of Deshaun Watson, as long as his off-the-field history actually checks out. As mentioned, the way Snyder operated things in Washington makes a potential Watson trade a terrible look. One can likely cross him off the list, as much as he may be able to help the team.
Moving on, there’s Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, two teams who directly compete with the Commanders in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks likely aren’t interested in providing a conference contender with what could be the final puzzle piece needed to get back to a Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Commanders, these complications likely cross Rodgers and Wilson off the list as well.
Who’s left? In free agency, they could pursue the big-armed Jameis Winston to provide a jolt to their passing attack, but he may not be immediately ready to start the year, rehabbing from knee surgery.
Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins may be the best remaining options, and it seems incredibly unlikely that the latter would want to return to Washington either. Not that there’s any guarantee the Commanders would have interest either.
Which could just leave Tannehill, who has a massive cap number ($38.6 million) himself, but would definitely be an upgrade over Taylor Heinicke.
- Washington Commanders trade: 2022 second round pick (42nd overall), 2023 fourth round pick
- Tennessee Titans trade: Ryan Tannehill
There’s no indication that Tannehill is available, but there’s a sense the Titans would move on from him if they could lock in a true improvement at the position. That could even end up being Aaron Rodgers. But if the Packers aren’t interested in taking the contract of Tannehill back, preferring to roll with their 2020 first-round selection Jordan Love instead, then Tannehill is up for grabs.
Washington, if they don’t have a better plan, should be all over a Tannehill trade.
He fits the profile of what the team already has with Heinicke but is much more polished at this stage in his career and has experience leading his team to the playoffs without having to have the ball in his hands at all times. With the Commanders, Tannehill can improve the team’s play-action passing game, forming a potent downfield connection with Scary Terry McLaurin. He’d also benefit from the run-based approach led by Antonio Gibson out of the backfield.
The Commanders could still add a few more weapons for Tannehill aside from Curtis Samuel, McLaurin and Gibson, but it’s a decent enough start to compete for the playoffs in the NFC East.