Commanders recap: Adam Peters fills needs and finds intrigue

The moves have been plentiful...

Jeremy Chinn
Jeremy Chinn / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters continued to fill needs and find intrigue to begin his 2024 roster overhaul.

Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters has been a busy man. After reaching agreements with seven players to begin legal tampering, the general manager worked out deals with five others as he continued a complete overhaul of the roster.

The players acquired during the recent wave seem to be more rotational pieces or backups on the Commanders. However, several could play vital roles.

The biggest name amongst Tuesday’s haul is also the only offensive player on the list. Marcus Mariota was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft after winning the Heisman Trophy at Oregon in 2014. He started for the Tennessee Titans for most of his five-year rookie contract and showed flashes of being the type of playmaker some scouts thought he could be.

Commanders solidified depth on Day 2 of legal tampering

Inconsistencies and injuries resulted in him leaving the Titans after his fifth year for the Las Vegas Raiders. Since then, Mariota has bounced around, serving primarily as a backup. In that role, he has been reasonably effective. Last season, he backed up Jalen Hurts with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Marcus Mariota will likely back up the Commanders' new rookie quarterback in 2024.
Marcus Mariota / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Mariota essentially replaced the departed Jacoby Brissett as the likely veteran second-string quarterback heading into 2024. Peters still has decisions to make about Sam Howell and a potential high-value rookie in this year’s draft. Most people assume that the North Carolina college product will eventually be traded and one of the top three draft-eligible signal-callers will be in a Commanders' uniform next season. If so, Mariota could start if the rookie needs extra time to develop.

Reports are that Mariota has agreed to a one-year contract with $6 million guaranteed that can max out at $10 million, depending on incentives. That would seem to be a reasonable price for a veteran backup.

What may be the most interesting part of the decision to land Mariota is trying to read the tea leaves on what it might say about Peters’ thoughts on the No. 2 pick. This is admittedly a fool’s mission, but he more closely resembles Jayden Daniels than Drake Maye.

Mariota’s build and athletic profile are very similar to what Daniels offers. They are both very effective runners. Maye can move, but he is neither as fast nor as fluid. He more closely resembles Sam Darnold, a player in whom the Commanders were rumored to have an interest before joining the Minnesota Vikings.

Commanders could have a steal in Jeremy Chinn

The player most likely to have an immediate impact is Jeremy Chinn. He offers a great combination of size and speed. The former second-round pick is 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash in college. He was on a very good trajectory with the Carolina Panthers during his first couple of seasons. He made some All-Rookie teams in 2020 and was even better in 2021. But injuries and a new defensive scheme over the past few seasons reduced his effectiveness.

Chinn's size, speed, and playmaking ability should give Commanders defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. plenty of flexibility. The coach has shown a great ability to put his defensive backs in positions to succeed. It will be interesting to watch him mix and match versatile players like the Southern Illinois product and Quan Martin this season.

A lot of analysts have read the Chinn signing as a sure sign that Kamren Curl will not be back in 2024. That is probably true, but he could just as easily supplant Khaleke Hudson should Whitt want to run more three-linebacker sets.

In fact, in Chinn and Frankie Luvu, the Commanders could have classic WILL and MIKE linebackers should they choose that scheme. That would put Jamin Davis at the SAM, where he is probably best suited to play anyway.

Dan Quinn and Adam Peters looked back at their previous franchises for extra help at defensive end. Dante Fowler Jr. played under the head coach in Dallas for the last two seasons, and Ferrell was one of the pieces the Peters' front office brought to San Francisco in 2023. As such, we can assume the staff is well-acquainted with what these veterans can do.

Fowler and Ferrell were both considered major draft busts. Fowler was drafted with the third overall pick by Jacksonville in 2015, and Clelin Ferrell was the No. 4 overall pick by the Raiders in 2019. As you might expect, both have outstanding measurables. But neither has lived up to his lofty draft status.

The Commanders are banking on Clelin Ferrell reaching his potential in 2024.
Clelin Ferrell / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With Fowler, Ferrell, and Armstrong, Peters has added a lot of experience to a very young group of defensive ends. And this came with minimal financial risk attached.

Fowler alone has more career sacks, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries than Washington’s entire collection of 2023 defensive ends combined. There is no way of knowing how Whitt and defensive line coach Darryl Tapp plan to employ all these weapons, but there should be some very healthy competition throughout training camp. Official details about the contracts for the two new defensive ends remain murky, but both are expected to sign one-year deals at a modest base salary.

We can be pretty certain that the Commanders will not be drafting another long snapper after agreeing to a contract with veteran Tyler Ott.  He played in Seattle from 2016-2022, the last five of those years under new Commanders special teams coordinator Larry Izzo. He made the Pro Bowl in 2020, and eventually left the Seahawks for a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens in 2023.

Ott has been a reliable NFL snapper for a long time and there’s nothing more to demand from that position. Presumably, Izzo has confidence that he can still perform at a high level. After struggles with the position in 2023, that should come as a relief to fans and coaches alike.

None of the deals reached on Tuesday would qualify as major, but they should help shore up a leaky roster. What is most telling may be the deals that Peters didn’t make.

While he was working out low-risk deals with mid-level ends like Fowler and Ferrell, premiere edge rushers Danielle Hunter and Patrick Queen reached agreements on massive multi-year deals. Both players had been linked to the Commanders, but Peters passed - just as he did on Bryce Huff, who agreed to terms with the Eagles. The front-office leader is keeping his powder dry for now, preferring to build more methodically.

This confirms two things that we already suspected. First, Peters prefers to add his high-value prospects through the draft, while using free agency to fill gaps with steady veterans. And second, he found a Commanders' roster that was sorely in need of a complete overhaul.

That was signaled before he arrived by the trades of Montez Sweat and Chase Young. Now we are seeing how the new regime plans to overhaul up to half the previous roster by the time Washington takes the field in 2024.