Did Commanders just sign DeAndre Carter’s replacement?
By Jerry Trotta
Though we didn’t know it at the time, the Washington Commanders‘ 2021 offseason was a hint of what was to come this time around.
Though the team splurged on Ryan Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel and William Jackson in the first wave of free agency, most of their damage was done after the draft, when they landed Charles Leno, JD McKissic, Bobby McCain and Ricky Seals-Jones.
For what it’s worth, the Commanders didn’t acquire Ereck Flowers, who was a revelation at left guard last season, until draft week.
So far, they’ve adopted a similar strategy. After sitting out the first and second waves this offseason, the Commanders signed Andrew Norwell and re-signed McCain, Cam Sims and Joey Slye, among others.
Since the draft’s conclusion, they added Trai Truner, a five-time Pro Bowl guard who’ll likely compete with Wes Schweitzer for the starting right guard job.
On Wednesday, the Commanders made another post-draft addition, signing veteran receiver/return specialist Alex Erickson.
The Commanders signed veteran slot receiver Alex Erickson.
Though not a household name, Erickson could play a significant role for the Commanders next season. With DeAndre Carter signing with the Chargers in free agency, Erickson could step in as Washington’s leading return specialist.
In 2021, Carter was one of the NFL’s best return men, ranking third in yards averaged per kickoff return (25.11), totaling the second most kickoff return yards (904) and returning one for a touchdown against the Falcons in Week 4.
While Erickson profiles as more of a punt returner, he still has ample experience as a kickoff returner. Most of that came early in his career. In 2016-2018, he served as Cincinnati’s top kick returner. That stretch including leading the AFC in yards per return as a rookie (27.93) and third-year player in 2018 (26.2).
Since then, Erickson only has nine kickoff return attempts. With that experience, though, you have to think the Commanders will look to reinvigorate his interest in that role, especially given the lack of alternative options on the roster. Before the move, Jaret Patterson and Dax Milne were the lead candidates.
Could Erickson compete for punt return duties, too? Though Washington has far more options for that role — including Milne, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel — Erickson has returned at least 20 punts in each of his six seasons in the NFL.
Last season, Erickson averaged 8.9 yards on 23 attempts. For context, Carter averaged 8.4 yards per punt return over 16 tries. For his his career, Erickson’s averaged a respectable 8.1 yards, so he could come in handy in that regard.
Like Carter, Erickson has been a part-time receiver in his career.
The former undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin’s best season came in 2019 with the Bengals, when he posted 43 catches for 529 yards on 73 targets. Over his five other seasons, Erickson managed a combined 54 catches for 612 yards.
Given their backgrounds as receivers and return specialists, it’s fair to call Erickson Carter’s like-for-like replacement. Nicely done by Washington.