This overlooked Commanders offseason mistake reared its head on MNF
By Jerry Trotta
The Washington Commanders’ acquisition of Carson Wentz upended their offseason spending budget. It’s not like they were expected to go big-game hunting after they splurged during 2021 free agency, but the Wentz trade restricted them to cost-effective moves and re-signing their own free agents on the cheap.
Players re-signed include JD McKissic, Bobby McCain, Cornelius Lucas, Danny Johnson, Cam Sims, Daniel Wise, David Mayo, Milo Eifler, Jon Bostic, albeit not until after the roster cutdown deadline, Troy Apke, Jon Toth and Tyler Larsen.
It’s a laundry list of players, only three of which have a consistent role on Sundays, but it aligns with with the roster continuity philosophy Ron Rivera has preached since he was hired in 2020. Not everyone agrees with the approach, but it wasn’t surprising to see so many players re-up their contracts with the franchise.
What felt like an obvious move given the spark he provided on special teams last season, was re-signing DeAndre Carter. Instead, the Commanders let Carter test the free agent waters and he quickly found a new home with the LA Chargers.
To nobody’s surprise, Carter has been a supreme return specialist and a valuable depth receiver amidst all of the Chargers’ injuries at the position.
The Commanders made a huge mistake not re-signing DeAndre Carter.
Viable return specialists do grow on trees, but the Commanders didn’t have one waiting in the wings to justify letting Carter leave. Say what you will about Carter being raised in California and still having family on the west coast, but you really think he’d turn down a two-year deal worth $3 or $4 million over his current earnings?
Maybe Carter took a hometown discount, but surely he’d take a two-year contract over his one-year, $1.135 million deal with LA, no?
In the Chargers’ overtime win over the Broncos, Carter returned two kicks for 45 yards (22.5 average) three punts for 39 yards (13.3 average). For the season, Carter’s 10.89 yards average per punt return ranks sixth in the NFL. Dax Milne, the player Washington promoted in Carter’s wake, is averaging 8.47 yards per return.
It might not seem like a huge difference on paper, but you don’t need stats to know Carter is a superior returner relative to Milne. The 28-year-old is one of the game’s premier return specialists, as Washington learned last season when he finished third in yards averaged per kick return and second in kickoff return yards.
And yet, the Commanders settled for Milne, who insists on taking kicks out of the end zone only to get tackled before the 20-yard line and stutter-stepping on punt returns only to pick up a handful of yards instead of following blockers upfield.
Unfortunately, not retaining Carter falls right into the team’s mismanagement of the offensive line. The same away spending like a drunken sailor in free agency doesn’t always work, cutting corners seldom works out for front offices.
Rivera and Co. are currently learning that the hard way with Carter, Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner. Monday was yet another harsh reminder.