By Adam Aniba
Washington's defense has shown promise over the last two seasons, but the lack of a franchise quarterback has led to back-to-back 7 win seasons. The team swung for the fences and missed on acquiring quarterback, Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions in '20 and settled with their in-house option.
It was reported that the Lions turned down an offer from Washington, which included 1st & 3rd round draft picks in 2021. Detroit instead accepted an offer from the Rams, which included multiple 1st round draft picks along with QB Jared Goff.
The quarterback carousel has been well documented under the Daniel Snyder era. In fact, since Kirk Cousins left town, Washington has had 10 different quarterbacks under center. We mentioned ERFA Tyler Huntley in a previous article among the trade options for the Commanders, which would come at a relatively low cost. Names like Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, Texans Deshaun Watson and Seahawks Russell Wilson will continue to be mentioned in trade talks for QB needy teams.
The question many Commanders fans will have is, will Washington pay the high cost to acquire an established franchise signal caller and potentially get into a bidding war this season? HC Ron Rivera had the following to say about the quarterback situation during a recent presser.
"We had a very good meeting earlier, and one of the things that we talked about again was the four options we have on the roster, and free agency, and the draft, and potential trades," Rivera said. "You've got to look at all avenues, and then you've got to kind of predict and look at which ones intrigue you and then go from there."
As Rivera mentioned, all avenues will be utilized in attempting to find the next Washington signal caller. It's clear the confidence Rivera had with Taylor Heinicke has dwindled. Although the head coach mentioned that it takes 3-5 years to establish a roster, another 7 win or worse season could result in more turnover.
It's clear Washington is willing to give up a high draft pick to find their next signal caller. However, with teams like the Broncos, Bucs, Panthers, Saints, Steelers, Falcons and Colts all looking to do the same, the competition will be stiff. Of course the draft will be the avenue for some, but teams like the Raiders, Texans, Falcons and potentially even the Packers will be attempting to move their QB's.
The cost to acquire an established signal caller will be steep, in the realm of a high 1st round pick in '22, a 2nd/3rd pick in '22 and more draft capital in the '23 draft. Although it's only been rumored that Russell Wilson could be available, he's been mentioned in connection with Washington by local and national sports media.
The asking price surely starts with a high 1st round draft selection and Washington holds #11 overall in the upcoming draft. As mentioned, Washington will have competition in trading for any of the available franchise quarterbacks. Additional day 2-3 draft selections, with a player included in a deal, would help offset teams willing to offer multiple high round picks in a deal.
How Payne Factors In
The late season sideline scuffle between the former Alabama teammates, Jon Allen and Daron Payne during the 56-14 blowout loss to Dallas, was certainly rock bottom for the defensive unit.
As the defensive coordinator, it's Jack Del Rio who bares the burden of keeping his unit producing, while working cohesively. With a defense who finished so strong and displayed promise in '20, the letdown this season was a surprise. Although Chase Young was lost to an ACL injury and Montez Sweat missed half the season, the defense was respectable, led by defensive captain Jon Allen.
Allen signed a LTD prior to the season and isn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future. After finishing with 62 combined tackles, 9 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and 30 qb hits, Allen was named to the Pro Bowl as a starter..
Daron Payne had nearly 50 more snaps during the season, with half the production, as compared to Allen. Currently on the 5th year option and counting $8.5 million against the '22 salary cap, moving Payne now would be the best opportunity to get maximum value and compensation.
Payne's father went on a widely documented rant in December, regarding the rift between Allen and his son. This was after Payne deleted all his IG pics related to Washington. Giving Payne a long term deal makes little sense, at this point, with Allen making upwards of $18 million a year. With Matt Ioannidis being a much cheaper option (signed through '22) and free agent Tim Settle likely to return, including Payne in a deal for a quarterback makes a lot of sense.
The move would also free up more salary cap with all of Payne's rookie bonus already paid out. This is a situation where they have to get something in return for their 1st round investment in Payne or let him walk in '23 and hope for a 3rd round compensatory pick.
Including Payne in a deal for Russell Wilson certainly is a reality that could benefit both teams. Wilson's desire to have a more involved role with a new team and Seattle's need for interior defensive line help, seem like a match. In the end, trading Daron Payne, #11 & #73 picks this year and a conditional 2nd/3rd in '23 could be enough to outbid other interested teams.
Washington will have to go big or go home. RIvera might not have the luxury to develop a rookie signal caller and another season with 7 wins or less could earn him him a ticket out of Washington. Although 34 years old, Wilson has been extremely durable over the course of his career and adds a veteran presence that would lift the entire offense.
Wilson's ability to adjust on the fly, while utilizing his scrambling ability is a staple of his game that would mesh well with OC Scott Turner. The Seattle QB has a diverse skill set that could thrive in Turner's passing game with Terry McLaurin and lean on Antonio Gibson in the run game. One thing is certain, it's time for Washington to get a quarterback to be the face of the franchise. Although pricey, Wilson immediately changes the expectations for the Commanders in '22.
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