When the offseason started, the Washington Commanders were expected to be one of several teams who paid a premium to upgrade their roster. Unfortunately, trading for Carson Wentz and his $28 million cap hit for 2022 derailed any ambitions of the front office to set off some free agent fireworks.
But we digress.
Like any offseason, fans set their sights on one or two (or a handful) of pending free agents they wanted the franchise to sign. Everyone does it. We fantasize about them playing for the team, and, in some cases, photoshop their bodies into the uniform. It’s almost too tempting to resist.
We sympathize with those who are frustrated that the Commanders are seemingly content with running it back with almost the same roster that scratched and clawed to a 7-10 finish last season. That’s fair, but we’d counter that seven wins was almost an achievement given all the adversity (injured QB, toughest schedule, cavalcade of injuries, COVID breakout) they had to overcome.
This roster is talented. With improved QB play in Wentz, it would be a major disappointment if Washington doesn’t make the playoffs in 2022.
In other words, a free agency spending spree wasn’t necessary and the front office deserves some credit for avoiding these big-name players.
4 free agents Commanders deserve credit for avoiding
4. James Conner
Ben Standig of The Athletic reported earlier in the offseason that the Commanders were looking for an early-down back who can spare Antonio Gibson when he’s fatigued, injured or his fumble issues rear their ugly head.
While JD McKissic’s return will pay dividends for the passing game, Washington’s yet to sign a backup who’s capable of running between the tackles. With guys like Sony Michel, Marlon Mack, Carlos Hyde, Darrel Williams and Malcolm Brown all still unsigned, the front office will get solid value if their patience persists.
To their credit, the Commanders didn’t go for the jugular and sign James Conner in the first wave of free agency. While Conner was long expected to re-sign with Arizona, it feels like the Cardinals grossly overpaid to keep him around.
The cancer survivor’s talent goes without saying, but he’s not a top-10 running back in the league and his contract reflects that. Perhaps the Cardinals were seduced by Conner’s 15 touchdown runs last season, because doling out $7 million a year and $13.5 million guaranteed to someone who finished 27th in rushing yards (752) and 43rd in yards per carry (3.7) doesn’t seem like good business.
Conner’s also yet to play a full season and his 15 games in 2021 marked his highest total since his rookie campaign back in 2017.
Good on Washington for avoiding Conner. There are equally-talented backups still available who won’t cost more than $2 million per year.