The Commanders have few options for a veteran QB trade

2022 QB Class Washington Commanders

Ron Rivera has made it abundantly clear that his number 1 priority this offseason is to upgrade the quarterback position. Taylor Heinicke has proven that he deserves a spot in the NFL these past two seasons, but that there is a ceiling to his ability. He has been an incredible story, but he’s taken Washington as far as he can as a starter. The Commanders have the pieces to be competitive, with a good OL, a couple of young talented weapons and a defense that can dominate when healthy. What they are lacking is an above average or better QB to help them win the close games.

With the team built as it is, Rivera’s first choice to go the veteran route to fill the hole at quarterback. Unfortunately there are only a few viable options in the free agent or trade market. Today we will look at various names mentioned on the trade market and the likelihood of them under center next season.


Options that aren’t realistic for Washington: Aaron Rodgers, Kyler Murray, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins:

Though all of these names have been floated in the trade rumor mill, the only one likely even on the move is Aaron Rodgers. He would be exactly what Rivera is looking for, but there has been zero credible rumors connecting him to Washington. Rodgers will have say into where he is playing next year, and he’s not likely to choose Washington. As for the rest of this list, Matt Ryan is probably the next most likely to be traded and that seems unlikely. His cap situation would make it tough for the Falcons to move him, and his play has been declining the past two seasons.


Longshot options for Washington: Russell Wilson, DeShaun Watson, and Ryan Tannehill:

Washington has already made a big offer to the Seahawks to try to land Wilson, and they were turned down. It’s not clear the Seahawks are even willing to deal their Franchise QB, but they also aren’t fully shutting the door on listening to offers. The bigger issue in a Wilson trade is convincing him that it’s the right move. Wilson has no trade rights, so he has to approve of any deal. The rumor has been that Wilson doesn’t want to play on the East Coast, but that could be a complete smoke screen. Though a Wilson trade is still unlikely, Washington should not close this door entirely.

Tannehill is only going to become available if Aaron Rodgers decides to go to Tennessee (one of his rumored options). If that doesn’t happen, the Titans aren’t getting rid of Tannehill. If somehow that does workout and Rodgers goes to the Titans, Washington should make a strong push for Tannehill. He would be a strong upgrade and has shown that he can be a good starting QB.

Watson is different because unlike any of the other QBs mentioned so far, he is very likely to be traded this offseason. He wants out of Houston and the Texans want to capitalize on their former Franchise QB. Watson is also exactly what Ron Rivera would be looking for on the field. He’s a young, franchise QB capable of elevating his team to compete with anyone. With Watson the Commanders could quickly become a legitimate contender in the NFC. Why then does a Watson deal seem impossible? Well his off the field issues make this a very tough situation for teams looking to acquire him.

A potential Watson trade is weighed down by three potential barriers, none of which figure to be resolved until at least early April. The District Attorney’s grand jury decision is expected to occur around April 1st, which will determine whether criminal charges go forward versus Watson. If they do go forward, that will lead to a potentially long trial or a plea agreement. Even if the criminal charges don’t proceed, Watson is still facing civil lawsuits, that if not settled could go on for some time. The NFL could suspend Watson as well for a significant amount of time depending on the investigation.

With all of that up in the air, a team trading for Watson wouldn’t be able to even think of completing a deal until at least the criminal side of the case is figured out. That means that they’d have to wait until other trades and free agent signings occur. If there is any delay into the criminal side being resolved, it could even happen after the NFL Draft, making it even tougher for a team to sit on the sidelines for that long. Washington is also dealing with their own investigation to sexual harassment’s claims, making it a PR nightmare to even think of acquiring Watson at this time. Given all the off the field stuff, it seems very unlikely that Watson will end up in a Commanders uniform next season.


Realistic Options: Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz:

Garoppolo helped lead the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game this past season, but is on the market as San Francisco will turn to Trey Lance. Garoppolo is an interesting situation, as in his two full seasons with the 49ers, he’s led them to the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship Game. Overall with San Francisco he’s 31-14 in the regular season and 4-2 in the postseason. Quarterback win stats are should generally be taken with a grain of salt, but it is worth noting how well SF has performed with him healthy and under center vs when he’s out.

Garoppolo should probably be considered as something more than a “game manager”, but less than a “franchise” quarterback. His production is generally strong, though somewhat influenced by the 49ers system and weapons. Garoppolo is probably middle of the pack in terms of pure QB play in the league, but he’s also probably reached his ceiling. He would definitely represent an upgrade over what Washington currently has. The biggest concern with a Garoppolo deal is his offseason shoulder surgery and his overall injury history. Though he’s been on the 49ers for 4 full seasons, he’s only been able to finish two of those years. In 2018 Garoppolo suffered an ACL injury that limited him to 3 games, in 2020 a pair of ankle injuries limited him to 6 games. This past season Garoppolo suffered a number of injuries including a calf strain, a torn thumb ligament and a shoulder injury. Garoppolo needed offseason surgery on both the thumb and the shoulder. The shoulder injury is the most concerning as the recovery is much longer and he won’t be able to throw until July.

That means a team needs to trade for him without knowing how his arm looks and what his outlook for 2022 will be. For Washington that represents a bit of a risk as they are focused on an upgrade for 2022. In addition you probably would want to wait until at least mid-April to get even a general idea of how the healing is progressing. Again that would mean passing on other trade or Free Agent QB options. Even then you might not have enough information on his outlook.

Wentz was an MVP candidate in 2017 and might have won it if he didn’t miss the final couple weeks (and subsequent SB run) due to injury. He continued to play well in 2018 and 2019, but there was a bit of a drop off. In 2020 his production cratered and the Colts made the deal last year to hopefully revive his career. While the production did improve last season, the Colts just had to win one more game over the final two weeks and couldn’t come up with the victory. Wentz really struggled week 18 versus the hapless Jaguars and that has led to rumors of the Colts being unhappy.

Wentz probably represents the smallest upgrade over Heinicke, but despite how the year finished he is a solid 3rd tier QB. He’s kind of in that “game manager” category, but he came through for the Colts last season, despite their lack of passing game weapons. While Wentz has his own injury history, he’s healthy now and the Colts likely would accept a very minor return. This could mean that Washington retains their picks on both the 1st and 2nd days of the draft to add.



From a trade standpoint there isn’t a great option for Washington to get the veteran signal caller Rivera wants. Russell Wilson is the franchise QB Rivera wants, but it’s unclear if a deal can get done. Beyond Wilson, I think Washington will have to see what develops in the Garoppolo and Wentz markets. Neither are the true franchise QB, but both offer big enough upgrades to help Washington get back to the playoffs. They are also both comparable to the free agent options available, so this looks to be the level of QB play Washington will need to rely on for next season. Tomorrow we will look at what free agent QBs Washington could look at, and what it will mean for their 2022 playoff hopes.



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