Analysis

Washington Commanders Free Agency Outlook

Washinton Commanders Free Agency Outlook

Washington followed up an NFC East title and playoff appearance (albeit with a 7-9 record) in 2020 with the same number of wins in 2021, though 7-10 was only good enough for third in their division and tenth in the NFC. The quest for a competent quarterback continued as free agent signing Ryan Fitzpatrick and his glorious beard played 16 snaps in Week One before suffering a hip subluxation which knocked him out for the rest of the season.

Taylor Heinicke, fresh off a furious comeback that fell just short against the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, started off strong but faltered as the year went on. After averaging 280 passing yards and throwing for a total of seven touchdowns in his first three starts, he averaged just 205 passing yards and a total of 12 passing touchdowns in the remaining 12 games. 2020 2nd overall pick Chase Young tore his ACL in Week 10 after mustering just 1.5 sacks up to that point as the Commanders suffered blows on and off the field. With a roster that was the 13th youngest entering 2021 and nearly $32 million in cap space, Washington is poised to bolster a roster that has plenty of holes.

Update: The Commanders now have $5,914,695 available in cap space.

Washington’s Impending Free Agents

  • S Landon Collins
  • CB Bobby McCain
  • RG Brandon Scherff
  • WR Adam Humphries
  • LT Cornelius Lucas
  • TE Ricky Seals-Jones
  • WR DeAndre Carter
  • CB Danny Johnson
  • RB J.D. McKissic
  • WR Cam Sims
  • DT Tim Settle
  • CB Darryl Roberts
  • C Tyler Larsen
  • LB Jon Bostic
  • QB Garrett Gilbert
  • CB Torry McTyer
  • QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • RG Jamil Douglas
  • RT David Steinmetz
  • EDGE Nate Orchard
  • TE Tyrone Swoopes
  • RG Najee Toran
  • S Troy Apke
  • LB Jared Norris
  • TE Dylan Cantrell (ERFA)
  • LB Milo Eifler (ERFA)
  • EDGE Jalen Jelks (ERFA)
  • K Brian Johnson (ERFA)
  • DE Bunmi Rotimi (ERFA)
  • C Jon Toth (ERFA)
  • DT Daniel Wise (ERFA)
  • C Keith Ismael (ERFA)
  • QB Kyle Allen (RFA)
  • LB Jordan Kunaszyk (RFA)
  • K Joey Slye (RFA)

By far the most notable free agent for the Commanders is right guard Brandon Scherff, their first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He has spent his entire seven-year career with the Commanders, playing on his rookie contract and then multiple franchise tags, but that run may be ending. Scherff’s injuries have begun to mount as he’s missed 22 total games over the past four seasons; however, a player of his caliber on the offensive line is sure to have plenty of suitors in free agency.

Other offensive free agents of note are running back J.D. McKissic and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. McKissic proved to be a solid complementary back to starter Antonio Gibson while Fitzpatrick barely played for Washington in 2021 and appears unlikely to return. On defense, the Commanders’ biggest free agent is cornerback Bobby McCain who started 16 games and played 93.1% of snaps in 2021, recording four interceptions.

Franchise Tag 

The Commanders do not have any candidates that make sense for the franchise tag. Scherff has played on the franchise tag for two consecutive seasons, earning $18,040,000 in 2021. Though he is eligible for a third straight franchise tag, it comes at the cost of 120% of his previous season’s salary which amounts to an exorbitant $21,600,000 for 2022. This would make him the highest-paid guard in the league in terms of AAV by far and is a prohibitive cost for the Commanders.

Update: The Commanders did not end up using their franchise tag this offseason.

Team Needs

  1. Quarterback
  2. Inside Linebacker
  3. Wide Receiver
  4. Guard
  5. Cornerback
  6. Defensive Line Depth

It has become a recurring theme over recent offseasons the nation’s capital is in need of a competent and dependable signal caller and the same story can be told this offseason. Heinicke does not appear to be a viable long-term solution, and the Commanders will look to address the position through free agency or the draft. The new quarterback will need reliable receiving options outside of Terry McLaurin, as offseason acquisition Curtis Samuel played less than 8% of snaps. Protection up front will also be vital, especially if Scherff departs in free agency.

Linebacker is a glaring need for the Commanders, particularly on the inside, as 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis failed to seize command of the middle linebacker spot. Washington surrendered the most passing touchdowns and fourth-most passing yards against despite only facing the 14th most passing attempts; their eleven interceptions were fifth-worst in the league. Reinforcements in their secondary will be necessary, especially at cornerback. Additional depth on the defensive line will allow Washington to bring back Young when he’s ready, as well as supplement the losses of rotational linemen Settle and Rotimi.