Should the Commanders retain QB Taylor Heinicke in 2023?

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Taylor Heinicke
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Taylor Heinicke /

Should the Washington Commanders retain quarterback Taylor Heinicke before the free-agent rollercoaster begins in 2023?

All signs point to the Washington Commanders giving Sam Howell a legitimate shot at becoming their starting quarterback in 2023. The fifth-round pick certainly looked the part during his debut in Week 18 against the Dallas Cowboys, but it’s a small sample size and one that could suggest further reinforcements are sought at some stage.

Having a veteran option or someone else from the college ranks would increase competition and avoid any complacency from Howell’s point of view. Although Carson Wentz is a prime cut candidate thanks to poor form and the $26.17 million in cap savings, Washington also has the option of handing a new deal to Taylor Heinicke if they see fit.

Heinicke came in for the injured, underperforming Wentz in Week 5 and flourished. His teammates were completely on board and the signal-caller could count himself extremely unfortunate to be benched in favor of Wentz with just a fortnight remaining.

Perhaps head coach Ron Rivera wanted to give Wentz one final opportunity to salvage his career. Something he was unable to accomplish before Howell was installed.

After completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,859 yards, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions, and an 89.6 passer rating in 2022, Heinicke once again performed above expectations. And when speaking on the Pat McAfee Show during Super Bowl week, the signal-caller outlined his desire to stick around in Washington next season.

"“I might be back there. I’d love to be back there. I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about it. … There are a lot of moving parts. A lot of big-time free agents over there. I want to play. I want to start. If that opportunity doesn’t come up, being a backup quarterback in the NFL is probably one of the best jobs in America. Either way, I’m just happy to be in the league. You know my story.”"

This does make a ton of sense for depth if nothing else. Rivera knows the player well having worked together for a number of years, so this continuity could be a key component behind Washington’s eventual decision on Heinicke.

Of course, much will depend on the money involved. According to Over the Cap, Heinicke is projected to command $7.93 million per year on his next deal, which isn’t unreasonable for a backup option looking at the landscape around the league.

The Commanders could bring in someone they feel is more capable in case Howell doesn’t make the necessary strides. Having someone like Heinicke as a fall-back option isn’t a bad spot to be in, especially considering how respected he is within the locker room.

It’s been a colorful NFL journey for Heinicke so far. He went from an unheralded afterthought with the Carolina Panthers to a surprising contributor with the right mindset to step in at a moment’s notice and make his presence felt.

These are valuable traits for any backup quarterback. So even if the Commanders decide to go in a completely different direction, Heinicke should receive some interest in free agency to continue his career.

Heinicke is laid back enough to let things play out. And he’ll take nothing for granted wherever he ends up next.

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