Quarterback is the top offseason priority for the Washington Football Team.
Despite winning the NFC East for the first time in five years, the Washington Football Team enters the offseason with several important needs to address.
On Sunday, head coach Ron Rivera made it clear what the top priority is for Washington: a solution at the quarterback position.
Since Kirk Cousins left Washington after the 2017 season, Washington has started eight different quarterbacks. In the three seasons prior, Cousins started 49 consecutive games, including a playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
In 2020 alone, the Washington Football Team started four quarterbacks, the most among playoff teams. Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins each started six games while Kyle Allen tallied four starts before suffering a season-ending injury.
But on Saturday, the offense was led by Taylor Heinicke, a former Old Dominion University star that was out of the league before Washington signed him on Dec. 8.
Originally intended to be a “quarantine quarterback” to guard against a COVID-19 outbreak in the facility, Heinicke moved onto the active roster after Smith suffered a calf injury during Week 15. Heinicke’s place as Smith’s backup was solidified after Washington waived Haskins on Dec. 28.
Heinicke turned heads in Washington’s playoff loss on Saturday, registering 306 passing yards and a team-high 46 rushing yards. His third-quarter touchdown run to bring Washington within two points of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was arguably the highlight of the game. In addition, Heinicke’s 92.0 score from Pro Football Focus is the highest for a Washington quarterback in nearly 14 years.
But is Heinicke the answer to Washington’s quarterback woes? Let’s face it: there just isn’t enough tape on him. While Heinicke played incredibly in the wild card game, he was a backup for a reason, and it isn’t unreasonable to think the league can figure him out with more time. Washington also must be careful not to overpay Heinicke this offseason and create a Matt Flynn-esque cap situation.
But Heinicke has earned a chance to compete for the job and certainly has earned his place in Washington’s quarterback room moving forward. Rivera and other front-office officials in Washington have said little about potential additions at quarterback this offseason, only saying that there will be a quarterback competition regardless of who is on the roster.
Allen will be a free agent this upcoming offseason, as will undrafted free agent Steven Montez, who never played a snap in his rookie season. Smith, the only current Washington quarterback contracted for 2021, is due $24.4 million next season.
It is still early in the process, and Washington still doesn’t have a general manager to add input. But there are plenty of options available for Washington outside of their current quarterbacks. Free agency is an option, although aside from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, the current free-agent class lacks the stability and talent Washington needs.
The 2021 draft class is deep at quarterback, with PFF projecting five quarterbacks going in the first round. Some mock drafts see Washington taking a quarterback with the 19th overall pick, with CBS projecting Alabama star quarterback Mac Jones to Washington.
Two other potential options for Washington are two quarterbacks generating trade buzz: Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. Watson has made his disagreement with the Texans’ front office no secret and has ignited trade rumors. While certainly the best available option, Washington would have to give up many assets to get a seat at the table.
The realistic best option via trade would be Stafford. Stafford, who has been the subject of trade rumors for nearly a full year, would be 33 in 2021. Despite the Lions’ 5-11 record, Stafford still threw for 26 touchdowns and over 4,000 yards and is very much still in his prime.
Stafford is still owed a decent amount of money, but if the Washington front office can make it work, he can be the perfect quarterback to capitalize on the playoff window Washington’s defense has opened.
All told, the upcoming offseason for the Washington Football Team will be among the most crucial in the franchise’s recent history. The success of this offseason starts with nailing the decision at quarterback.