If Washington’s front office had gotten its way, the Commanders would have been crippled for years

Fresh off another loss, and nearly in full command of last place in the NFL, it would be straightforward enough to dissect how poor clock management, stale play calling, and undisciplined execution led to the Commanders’ fourth straight defeat. But there’s little point to that exercise at this juncture – akin to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic – as the season has, effectively, already been sunk.

No, instead I’m going to look back, and then look forward, at the long-term damage this front office could have done, and still could do if their executive power isn’t checked soon.

Dodging a Bullet

As was made very clear at the beginning of the last offseason, Ron Rivera and his pack of GMs were desperate for a QB. Given the thin options in the draft, it was apparent that only a veteran would do. And while there were a number of middling free agent options on the market, such as Mitch Trubisky and Marcus Mariota, Rivera wanted more.

He wanted to make a splash, and there was no splashier option than Russell Wilson, whose relationship in Seattle had soured. At one time, Wilson had been a top tier quarterback, and Rivera was willing to do whatever it would take to see if he still had that ability within him.

Details of Washington’s offer to the Seahawks started coming out after the Broncos news broke. Washington had actually offered their 1st round picks for the next 3 years, and possibly a later round pick. They were also willing to add players, but the talks with Seattle never got past the initial offer.

Many of us hated the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčtrading for Wilson (or someone like Aaron Rodgers) at the time, recognizing it would require mortgaging the future of the franchise for an expensive veteran QB on the downside of his career.

That said, even the most cynical of us couldn’t have predicted the spectacular debacle that Russell Wilson has actually been this year in Denver.

Ultimately, in addition to picking up Wilson’s salary, the Broncos sent their 1st and 2nd round picks in 2022 and 2023, and a 2022 5th round pick to get Wilson and Seattle’s 2022 4th rounder. Denver also sent QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, and DL Shelby Harris to the Seahawks.

Imagine if, at a minimum, Ron had sent Washington’s 2022, 2023, and 2024 firsts to Seattle for Wilson, a fate only avoided because Wilson himself had the ability to dictate where he ended up, and Washington wasn’t on the list of acceptable destinations.

To start, in 2022, we would be without Jahan Dotson, Brian Robinson, Sam Howell, and Cole Turner – who were all spawned from Washington’s first round trade back from number 11. We would have about $10M more in cap space this year, as Wilson’s contract expands over time, but would be saddled with $107M in dead cap if the team decided to move on from him next season.

Bereft of key draft capital for two more years, down half a season’s team cap space, and with no Plan B quarterback in the pipeline, Washington would have been neutered for most of the rest of the decade. And, if Ron and the Martys had their way, it would have happened.

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Our Consolation Prize

Undeterred by Wilson’s cold shoulder, the Commanders’ brain trust explored other options, ultimately throwing themselves at Chris Ballard and the Colts’, asking if they could have the privilege of paying top dollar for the moth-eaten couch Indianapolis was preparing to leave at the curb for the next bulk trash collection.

Ballard, of course, was happy to oblige, and fleeced Rivera for, in order:

  • A swap of 2022 second round picks that netted Indy the value of a 4th rounder.
  • Washington’s 2022 third round pick.
  • All of Carson Wentz’s 2022 salary.
  • Washington’s 2023 third round pick, which becomes a second rounder if Wentz takes 70% of the 2022 snaps at QB.

For Carson Wentz and a 2022 7th rounder from the Colts.

The 2022 picks and salary are sunk costs. There’s nothing we can do to get them back. Their only value at this point is as a painful lesson that, perhaps, can stop us from making stupid decisions again in the future. We absolutely should not use their squandered value as justification for staying the course with Carson.

That said, there is still one element of this bargain that we can salvage: Our 2023 second round pick. At this point, that pick is a selection around the 35th or 36th slot, a very high value second rounder, and not something this team can afford to lose.

At virtually any cost, Wentz needs to be prevented from collecting 70% of the snaps this year, which means pulling him around game 9 – if not sooner – out of an abundance of caution.

As we approach that critical trigger point, outside pressure needs to be applied to Rivera and his colleagues not to give away this valuable draft token that, ideally, they won’t be in a position to spend.

Looking Forward

With the Carson Wentz experiment yielding some of the most reliably replicable results in scientific history, thoughts need to turn to Washington’s quarterback situation in 2023 and beyond. If Ron does the sensible thing and yanks Carson in the next month or so, chances are we’ll see rookie Sam Howell at some point before the end of the year.

I think that would be a mistake for Howell’s development, but it’s also the way of the world in the NFL. Rarely do young QBs get the care and feeding they need to develop ideally. My guess is, that at that point, Howell struggles, just like Kenny Pickett has, and that he shows us a mixed bag of abilities. I’m certainly skeptical that he’ll erase all doubts in our minds that he’s the franchise QB here for the next decade. That said, I think he’ll show some promise.

But, glimmers of hope in the form of a 5th round QB would be an irresponsible foundation to build the 2023 season on. It will almost certainly demand that the team selects a quarterback in the first round of the 2023 draft in order to increase its chances that the Commanders have at least one starting caliber QB in the pipeline.

Do we want Ron Rivera and the Martys making that pick? Do we want them, potentially, additional packaging, future high picks with our first rounder to “move up and get their guy?” Do we want them to mortgage our team’s future in a way they very nearly did with the Wilson miss? I certainly don’t want them to, and I’m imploring the dysfunctional buffoons at the top of this organization to do whatever it takes to prevent them from doing so.

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Do you want Ron and the Martys to have a hand in selecting Washington’s next quarterback?

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