However, there are several teams in the league asking the same thing which increases the competition for a limited number of passers-by. Washington’s playoff run last season came at a cost, as his 19th round one of the draft choices is likely outside of the area where the team could win a top quarterback prospect. The free agency doesn’t give a straight answer, and the trading market is overcrowded – although there is one less team in need of QB after the Indianapolis Colts traded Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz on Thursday.
Five NFL experts – former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann, former NFL manager Randy Mueller, athletic draft analyst Dane Brugler, and salary cap analysts Brad Spielberger (Pro Football Focus) and Jason Fitzgerald (Over The Cap) – considered how Washington could optimize less – then – ideal situation.
Trade at the right price
This is the most immediate option. The most popular name out there is Houston’s Deshaun Watson, but Texans reluctance to trade it, as well as Rivera’s comments that they don’t want to mortgage the future, make it less likely. Plus, Washington doesn’t have a tempting quarterback or high draft slot in return, and Fitzgerald believes any trading package would likely have to include rookie of the year pass rusher Chase Young.
Washington has three other possible options if these players are made available: a Raiders backup that deserves another chance (Marcus Mariota), a young Jets starter who may be on the rise with a new regime (Sam Darnold) , and a Panthers QB with a significant injury history (Teddy Bridgewater).
Fitzgerald believes that it will likely cost a mid-round selection to win a player like Darnold, if he is available at all. Theismann firmly believes the team needs to get their draft capital as the offense has different positional needs, and he said he would be reluctant to act against someone he isn’t sure is better than what that is Team already has, including Darnold. The former third overall selection of the Jets enters the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, but any team trading for him would have the option to exercise his fifth year option.
Theismann said he think Mariota would be a good option because it wouldn’t cost that much – maybe a third or fourth round election – and has an expiring contract. He sees parallels between Mariota and Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback who appeared to be on his way out of the league after a bad start in Miami. But in 2019, Tannehill moved to Tennessee, adding a good running game and solid defense (after taking over for a bank Mariota), and putting the Titans one game off the Super Bowl. Theismann believes Mariota and Washington could form a similar game.
Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner was Bridgewater’s position coach in Minnesota, and new executive vice president of football / player staff Marty Hurney liked Bridgewater enough to land him on a three-year, $ 63 million contract in Carolina last year. But Fitzgerald doesn’t think the Panthers will part with him until they know they have a replacement, via trade or draft.
“If you wait for Carolina to select someone on the draft, it will be a long time finding a starting quarterback for your team,” said Fitzgerald.
This free agent class is thin. Washington’s best option would be for Dak Prescott to hit the market, but the Dallas Cowboys are unlikely to work out a contract extension or use the franchise tag a second time for him. If he got the free hand, Washington would likely have to get into a bidding war with other teams to land him.
If Prescott fails to reach the free agency, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton, and Andy Dalton belong to the second tier. Spielberger said Washington should consider these options a bargain and avoid overpaying for a middle-class quarterback as San Francisco did with Jimmy Garoppolo and Minnesota did with Kirk Cousins.
Should Washington look to Newton, Fitzgerald believes he’s worth a two-year contract with an average annual salary of $ 7 million.
Washington would take a huge risk by waiting to draft it. Brugler doesn’t just believe that there is an incomplete feature film season in which to judge prospects. Brugler believes up to a dozen teams could jump into the draft and look for a quarterback and make a splash in the top 10.
“You are going to have to make a big decision,” said Brugler. “At 19, sit and hope [Alabama’s] Mac Jones falls on her? Or are they aggressive and pick up their guy? “
Even if the team pushes hard, the team is unlikely to have the capital to position for Zach Wilson of Brigham Young or Justin Fields of Ohio State. (Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is widely expected to be the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first choice.) Brugler believes Washington could potentially trade in 7th or 8th place, which would put Trey Lance within reach, but he recognized the North Dakota by State Redshirt Sophomore is an “unparalleled rating”. He has elite qualities but little experience against tough competition (all 17 career games were played against FCS opponents).
Müller agrees. “As a GM, I’d have a tough time,” he said, adding that each of the top quarterbacks has at least one downside. He views Wilson as a more complete quarterback because of his ability to process information quickly and perform any required throws. “It has proven itself,” said Müller. “You don’t have to project him into another role.”
Alabama’s Jones has an edge over Lance in the design process. Jones attended the Southeastern Conference and attended the Senior Bowl, two proving grounds Lance didn’t have. But Brugler also noted that Lance loves to go deep, and if he were to be refined it would of course go with Washington’s offense. And Jones, Müller added, “had the best talent anyone had,” so his assessment requires context.
If Washington misses the top prospect, it could try drafting one in the middle round, as it did with Kirk Cousins, the fourth, in 2012. Brugler noted that Stanford’s Davis Mills is a high-upside prospect and should be available between round three and round five.
Stick with what you have
Washington needs and wants an upgrade at quarterback. While maintaining the status quo of the room isn’t out of the question for 2021, that would be the least appealing option. Or, as Spielberger put it more clearly: “It would be a waste of this list.”
Rivera has promised a few things for the next season, but competition in almost every position is one of them. The team re-signed Taylor Heinicke for two years after being impressed by his lone start to Washington’s playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he’s only guaranteed $ 1.5 million. And the team can keep Kyle Allen – recovering from ankle surgery – on an exclusive freelance agent tender, but that’s only worth $ 850,000 for a season.
Mueller believes both quarterbacks are “physically limited” and Heinicke (6-foot-1,210 pounds) more than Allen (6-3, 210). “That doesn’t mean they can’t get over it with the other things we’re talking about, but they have to get further physically to even keep up with Alex [Smith]Not to mention the other quarterbacks, ”he said.
However, Theismann believes Heinicke could be a viable option.
“Obviously it was monumental what [Alex] did it last year but Taylor can do things he can’t, ”he said. “He can put the ball in the field and play with his feet.”
Smith will be 37 by the start of next season, and while he hasn’t definitely said he wants to keep playing, he has made it clear in recent interviews. He still has a two-year contract, but no more guaranteed money. If Washington keeps him at his current deal, he’ll have a cap of $ 24.4 million for 2021 and $ 26.4 million for 2022. If it cuts him or trades, the team will eat $ 10.8 million Dollars from his prorated bonus – dead money that counts towards his cap.
Washington can wait to decide Smith’s future until it knows what it can end up in a dealership or free agency. If Washington is empty and trying to get another seasoned quarterback, it makes sense to keep Smith. If traded for a man who is seen as a short-term starter, it may also make sense to keep Smith as a backup and mentor – but on a lower salary.
“You’d have to cut his number significantly,” said Fitzgerald, adding that he thought Smith could make a $ 3 to 4 million a year contract with another team.