The Washington Commanders entered training camp feeling some level of confidence regarding their depth at linebacker. Following a costly week at the position, it could now be an issue the team must address.
Every NFL team deals with some losses during the summer, typically because a player suffers a season-ending injury. Washington experienced that and the sudden decision by one of their key rookies to retire.
Within recent days, the Commanders have removed two linebackers off their active 90-man roster. Rookie Tre Walker, a candidate to make the team in Week 1, suddenly retired. Meanwhile, first-year player Drew White suffered a torn ACL.
As Ben Standig of The Athletic points out, it leaves the Commanders with only seven linebackers on their roster just a few weeks into training camp. Asked by reported about the issue this week, head coach Ron Rivera acknowledged it could push the team to make a move.
“It’s gonna prompt us to obviously look at it.”Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera on recent losses potentially influencing the team to add a linebacker
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a quick look at three options to address the Washington Commanders’ lack of depth at linebacker.
Joe Schobert, free agent
A Pro Bowl selection in 2017, it’s fair to say that linebacker Joe Schobert’s best days are behind him. He has played for two teams – Jacksonville Jaguars (2020) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2021) – in the last two years and struggled to make an impact last season.
With that said, the Commanders are in a situation where they could really benefit from adding someone with experience. Cole Holcomb is entering just his fourth NFL season and Jamin Davis is in his second year. Schobert previously visited the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos this season and would at least be a serviceable rotational player for the Commanders’ defense.
Zack Ban, New Orleans Saints
Viewed as a potential cut candidate before the 2022 season by Mike Triplett of ESPN, linebacker Zack Baun can’t find his way to the field with the New Orleans Saints. The 74th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, defensive guru Dennis Allen and the Saints’ coaching staff simply haven’t been able to develop Baun as they wanted.
It’s time for a change of scenery. After playing just 276 total defensive snaps in his first two seasons, with a majority of his reps on special teams, Baun needs a fresh start. Washington might find he is a more effective pass rusher, trying to unlock a portion of the player credited with 19.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in his final season with the Wisconsin Badgers. On a rookie contract with the desire to prove himself, Baun could be an attractive trade target with a low cost.
A.J. Klein, free agent
Ever since he was hired by the Washington Commanders, Rivera has hired people he spent time with during his years with the Carolina Panthers. For a defensive-minded coach, that would seem to put free-agent linebacker A.J. Klein on the table.
Carolina drafted Klein with its fifth-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and he played significant snaps on defense and special teams during that time. Released by the Buffalo Bills in March, the 31-year-old is now a rotational player. That’s exactly what Washington needs and given Klein’s history with Rivera, this seems like the most obvious fit from this list.