Analysis | How will the Commanders land a new QB? They have a lot of options.

Analysis | How will the Commanders land a new QB? They have a lot of options.

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

Seven weeks into his tenure, Washington Commanders General Manager Adam Peters has kept a good poker face about how he’ll address the quarterback position.

He has insisted the team is considering all of its options, and with the No. 2 pick, eight other draft selections and plenty of salary cap space, Washington has many options at its disposal.

Coach Dan Quinn mentioned some traits he wants in his quarterback: mental and physical toughness, deep-ball accuracy and the ability to improvise and get out of bad plays. But most candidates who have a chance to land in Washington exhibit those qualities.

“It’s a good year if you need a quarterback, which I’m not saying we need a quarterback,” Peters said with a grin at the NFL combine last week. “But if you did, I think there’s some really good options.”

Let’s dig deeper into the Commanders’ options.

This is obviously the costliest option, and it would be a gamble given Washington’s myriad needs across the roster. But if the Commanders feel strongly enough about Southern Cal’s Caleb Williams, who will presumably be the first quarterback off the board, then perhaps they would send the Chicago Bears a haul to land him. And it will probably take a haul to move up even just one spot.

Based on the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart, which gives a numerical value to each draft pick, Washington’s No. 2 is worth 2,600 points, and the Bears’ No. 1 is valued at 3,000 points. Based on this model, the Commanders could send Chicago their first-round pick and the No. 40 pick (second round), which is worth 500 points.

But the Johnson trade chart has, in recent years, seemed to fall short of the true cost of moving up even just one spot in first round. In 2017, the Bears sent two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder to the San Francisco 49ers to jump from No. 3 to No. 2 for Mitchell Trubisky. Washington would probably pay a higher premium to get the No. 1 pick.

But here’s a caveat: A trade requires a trade partner. In the common draft era (since 1967), teams have traded the No. 1 pick only 13 times, and not once has a team dealt the top pick to move back to No. 2.

Justin Fields is the key to Chicago’s draft intentions. Should the Bears trade him before the draft, it’ll be obvious they plan to take a quarterback with the top pick, and probably Williams.

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, Williams has many enticing qualities, especially for Washington, his hometown team. Kliff Kingsbury, the Commanders’ new offensive coordinator, was a senior offensive assistant at USC last season, and his offense figures to feature many of Williams’s strengths as a passer. Williams also checks off a lot of Quinn’s must-haves with his accuracy and ability to improvise.

But unless Washington firmly believes Williams can be a franchise star, the risk of moving up may outweigh the reward. Peters would know; when he was the 49ers’ assistant GM, the team moved up nine spots to draft Trey Lance at No. 3 — only to watch its last pick in 2022, Brock Purdy, handily win the job.

Stay put and draft a QB at No. 2

The easiest route is to stay put and choose between North Carolina’s Drake Maye and LSU’s Jayden Daniels, assuming Williams is picked with the first selection. Draft experts are divided on who’s the better prospect, though a slight majority seem to favor Maye for his size and polish as a passer.

Daniels, whom LSU lists at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, took a massive leap last season and won the Heisman Trophy. He’s an electric athlete with elite accuracy. But his lean frame and tendency to take massive hits will worry teams.

Maye, who was 6-4 and 223 pounds at the combine, is a complete passer who throws over the middle of the field more often and has a stronger arm. But some analysts have criticized his inconsistent footwork and decision-making.

They’re close. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked Maye the fifth-best prospect in the draft and Daniels as the sixth.

Trade down, but still draft a QB

Why would the Commanders consider giving up the second pick when they desperately need a quarterback? Think back to 2016, when the Cleveland Browns traded their No. 2 pick and a conditional fifth-round selection to Philadelphia for two firsts, two seconds and a third from the Eagles.

For a team like Washington, which is in the early stages of a rebuild and plans to do much of it through the draft, those picks are critical. So how far back might the Commanders move? That would depend on just how much they could get in a trade down.

Should they find a willing partner, it’s plausible the Commanders could move back to acquire more picks and still draft a quarterback — think J.J. McCarthy (Michigan), Bo Nix (Oregon) or Michael Penix Jr. (Washington). Then Washington could use the additional picks to beef up its lines or add needed playmakers.

But the Commanders may not stop there. The team could sign a veteran quarterback in free agency to lend some experience and veteran savvy to the group, then still try to trade back and select a quarterback later in the first round.

Land a QB in free agency or through a trade

Though it feels like a long shot, the Commanders could choose to punt on this quarterback class. They could get a haul to trade down, use those assets to build up the offense and dive back into the market next year.

In free agency, Washington could target a veteran starter (Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins), a middle-aged stopgap (Jacoby Brissett, Gardner Minshew) or a younger reclamation project (Sam Darnold) and then continue to develop Sam Howell.

Wilson will probably sign for cheap because any salary will offset what Denver owes him, but after his past two stops, there have to be concerns about how he’d fit — and what he has left.

Cousins would be the best quarterback in Washington since … Cousins in 2017 … but it seems likely he’d want a multiyear deal that would be mostly, if not entirely, guaranteed. He’ll turn 36 this season, is coming off an Achilles’ injury and isn’t as mobile as some of the rookies. But as the top free agent quarterback available, he would probably have multiple suitors, with the Atlanta Falcons possibly sitting atop the list. Paying big for him would prompt the question: What is the new regime in Washington really building toward?

The only starter who may be available via trade is Fields, and that’s if the Bears hold onto the No. 1 pick. Fields is 25 and one of the most dynamic runners in the league. But three years in, questions remain about his ability as a passer, and if Chicago didn’t believe he could become the guy, it’s hard to imagine Washington would be able to make him that much better.

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