How can Bo Bauer make the Commanders 53-man roster in 2024?

The linebacker is looking to surge his way up the depth chart this summer.
Bo Bauer
Bo Bauer / Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Bauer’s journey to the NFL was never going to be an easy one. But the Washington Commanders are giving him a shot to make his dreams come true.

Bauer left Cathedral Prep as a four-star high school recruit back in 2017 and entered Notre Dame with the highest of hopes. The Pennsylvania struggled through his first several seasons to even get on the field with the Fighting Irish. Just as he was growing into a larger role, COVID turned everything upside down.

When he tore knee ligaments early in the 2022 season, it appeared that Bauer's path to the pros was permanently blocked.

But the linebacker doesn’t give up easily. Despite the injury, Bauer got himself in good enough shape to participate in Notre Dame’s 2023 pro day. His performance there earned him an invitation to camp with the Seattle Seahawks. Still dealing with the after-effects of the knee complication, he failed to make the roster, so he spent the following year getting himself back into peak condition.

Bauer returned to Notre Dame for their 2024 pro day and earned himself another shot. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Commanders. He is a long shot. But in a linebacker room full of new faces, the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder is, rather remarkably, still in the conversation.

The second-level presence has been a favorite of coaches and fans alike. At Notre Dame, his long hair and shaggy beard paired perfectly with his wild man on-field activities. Though Bauer remained a backup for most of his time in South Bend, he tended to make plays when he was on the field.

Bo Bauer must rely on special teams prowess to make the Commanders' roster

During his final full college season in 2021, he flashed the ability to do pretty much anything you’d want from a linebacker. Bauer dropped into coverage, made plays in the run game, and stood out as an edge rusher.

Brian Polian, who coached special teams at Notre Dame, referred to Bauer as his favorite player in 26 years of coaching. He attributed it to attitude, enthusiasm, and preparation. These are qualities that coaches always value.

If Bauer is to sneak onto the Commanders' roster, special teams will be the reason. He was a standout in college. He played on every special team unit and served as captain heading into 2022. To increase his attractiveness to potential NFL franchises, he spent a good part of his rehabilitation year mastering the art of long snapping as well.

Though he rarely started, Bauer has a wealth of experience playing multiple roles on defense. He had three different defensive coordinators in college and learned three different coverage schemes. He played both inside and on the weak side. The flexibility on both defense and special teams could give him an edge over one-dimensional players.

To make the final roster, Bauer would have to beat out several young veterans who have already proven themselves as fine special teams players. With Bobby Wagner, Frankie Luvu, Jamin Davis, and Jordan Magee as virtual locks, there may only be one or two other spots open.

Mykal Walker has experience. Anthony Pittman was signed primarily for his special teams play. That may leave Bauer and Keandre Jones on the outside looking in.

The Commanders also have a veteran long snapper in Tyler Ott who seems to be a safe bet at this point. Still, things can change during an off-season.

Injuries are an ever-present threat. If the experiment with Davis playing more on the edge continues, it might free up an additional spot for a traditional linebacker. And Bauer could simply wow coaches with his effort. He has done it before.

Bauer’s athletic profile isn’t overwhelming, but it is respectable. He does not have the speed to cover the field the way other linebackers do, but his ability to diagnose plays helps him gain a half-step. His leg drive and burst are moderate for a pro. His upper body strength has always been above average.

Though this will not impress Commanders fans, Bauer’s numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine were very similar to those of David Mayo. The veteran had a couple of quality seasons with the Carolina Panthers earlier in his career. By the time he came to the Commanders, he began to slow down and it showed.

Bauer could be someone like that. He could provide depth and be a core special teamer. He also happens to have the perfect role model to help in his quest to become a surprise part of the Commanders' plans.

A few years back, when asked about the NFL players he most admired, Bauer cited new Commanders special teams coordinator Larry Izzo. He was an undersized undrafted free agent out of Rice who managed to play 13 seasons in the NFL, going to three Pro Bowls and winning four Super Bowls along the way.

Izzo appeared in 200 NFL games without ever starting a single contest. He got this far by becoming a superstar on special teams and a decent backup at linebacker.

And now Izzo may have a large say in whether Bauer gets a chance to continue pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL.