Commanders

2 free agent guards Washington could sign to replace Scherff

Commanders
Corbett and Williams

With the Super Bowl in the past and the 2021 season in the books, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux and Matt Weyrich take a look at potential free agents that the Washington Commanders could benefit from signing this offseason. Next up: guards Connor Williams and Austin Corbett.

For a third consecutive offseason, Brandon Scherff's future with the Washington Commanders has been a hot topic of conversation.

Scherff has been exceptional for Washington over his first seven seasons. He's been named to the Pro Bowl five times, including this past season. In 2020, Scherff was voted to the Associated Press' first-team All-Pro squad, the first time a Washington player accomplished such a feat since 1996.

Yet, despite Scherff's stellar play, the right guard has not been able to agree with Washington on a long-term contract. The 30-year-old has played to last two seasons for the Burgundy and Gold under the franchise tag. As a result, Scherff earned the highest salary of any guard in football in 2021, a number north of $18 million.

Tagging Scherff for the third time this offseason would drive up his price tag even more, which is the main reason not to expect the Commanders to use it once again. The most likely scenario is that Scherff signs elsewhere in free agency, meaning Washington will have a massive hole to fill on the right side of its offensive line.

So, if Scherff does depart in free agency next month, who might Washington look to replace him? Here are two free agent options...

 

Connor Williams

A second-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, Connor Williams has been a starter in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. After tearing his ACL towards the end of 2019, Williams has played in every single game over the past two seasons, starting all but three of them.

At just 24 years old, Williams is an intriguing player for Washington to take a chance on. At 6-foot-5, 298 lbs., Williams has incredible size and athleticism for a guard. He's proven to be effective both as a run blocker and in pass protection as well -- Williams earned a PFF grade above 74 in both categories in 2021 and finished as the 11th-highest-graded guard in the league. 

Contractually, Williams would make a lot of sense for Washington as a potential Scherff replacement. PFF projects him to sign a three-year deal with $20 million, a figure significantly lower than what Scherff will command in the open market. By signing Williams, Washington would add a more than solid guard for a fraction of the cost it'd be to keep Scherff in town.

What might deter Washington from pursuing Williams is that he's primarily played left guard for the Cowboys in his career. For the Commanders, Ereck Flowers started 16 games at the position last season -- and played quite well, too. So, if the guard pairing of Williams and Flowers were to work, one would have to slide over to the right side of the offensive line. It's certainly doable, but worth mentioning nonetheless. 

Austin Corbett

Another guard worth keeping an eye on for the Commanders is Austin Corbett, who is coming off a Super Bowl title with the Los Angeles Rams. Similar to Williams, Corbett was a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. But unlike Williams, it took a trade midway through his second season, from Cleveland to LA, for Corbett's play to improve.

Over the past two seasons, Corbett has started every game for the Rams and excelled at the right guard position. He's a better run blocker than pass protector, but he's an above-average player in both facets.

It's also worth mentioning that Corbett has played both center and left guard in his career, too, versatility that Washington head coach Ron Rivera is known to covet. Corbett would certainly slide into the starting right guard position with the Commanders, but his ability to play multiple positions could prove vital for Washington -- a team that at one point was on its fourth-string center in 2021.

Corbett is expected to earn a large payday this offseason. PFF projects the 26-year-old to sign a four-year deal worth $37 million. Even with that number, Corbett is still a significantly cheaper option than Scherff and four years younger than Washington's star guard.

 

Of the two players mentioned in this story, Corbett is the more natural fit in Washington. At just 26 years old, he still has numerous years of good football in front of him. Signing Corbett makes a ton of sense for Washington.

Other Free Agent Targets:

2 viable quarterbacks

Safety Marcus Williams

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

2 veteran cornerback options

WR Mike Williams

WRs Chris Godwin, Michael Gallup