JD McKissic’s future will shape Commanders’ RB room for 2022

Chase Edmonds, J.D. McKissic and Sony Michel

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: Running backs Chase Edmonds and Sony Michel.

It’s no secret the Commanders will enter free agency hoping to re-sign running back J.D. McKissic. GM Martin Mayhew said as much Wednesday at the NFL Combine, telling reporters he would “love to have” McKissic back in the fold next season.

The 28-year-old scatback ranked second on the team in both receptions (43) and receiving yards (397) in 2021, a testament to both his impact as a pass-catcher and Washington’s inability to find a No. 2 receiver behind Terry McLaurin. McKissic didn’t see much action in the run game but posted a solid 4.4 yards per carry before a concussion kept him out for the final six games.

Now, Washington’s running back room is composed of only Antonio Gibson and Jaret Patterson. Gibson posted a 1,000-yard season but hit the bench several times for his fumbling problems and needed his workload managed due to injury concerns. While Patterson, an undrafted free agent, showed promise as a rookie in limited action, he’s still very much a raw player.

McKissic is among the better pass-catching backs in the NFL, but he's no guarantee to re-sign and his limitations as a runner could prompt the Commanders to go another route this offseason to find a change-of-pace option behind Gibson — and provide some insurance should he miss more time. If they want a player who could be both a No. 2 rusher and a receiving threat, Chase Edmonds may be the answer.


Chase Edmonds

Paired with James Conner in the Arizona Cardinals’ backfield, Edmonds was a dynamic threat capable of busting out big plays despite being listed as 5-foot-9, 210 pounds. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2021, which ranked seventh among running backs with at least 100 attempts. Through the air, Edmonds had an identical number of targets (53) and catches (43) to that of McKissic with 86 fewer yards.

Injuries were a problem for Edmonds last season, missing four games due to a significant ankle injury and sitting out Week 18 with toe and rib issues. He missed three games in 2019 as well but has otherwise suited up for every one of the Cardinals’ games over the last four years.

Pro Football Focus projects Edmonds to sign a two-year, $12 million deal in free agency compared to one year and $2.5 million for McKissic. That $3.5 million difference in yearly salary can be attributed to Edmonds’ impact on the ground. Even though Conner took on a greater share of the spotlight by scoring 18 touchdowns last year, Edmonds was much more efficient as a rusher while ranking ninth among all non-QBs with an explosive play percentage of 15% on run attempts.

However, McKissic was a popular player in the Commanders’ locker room and his price tag is modest for his level of production through the air. Should Washington retain him, it could sign both him and a downhill running back like Sony Michel for the same amount it would cost to acquire Edmonds.

Sony Michel

With a price point of $4.25 million per year projected by PFF, it would cost the Commanders just $750,00 more to sign both McKissic and Michel than if they were to ink just Edmonds. Michel landed with the Los Angeles Rams in a trade with the New England Patriots shortly before the season began and eventually gained the trust of head coach Sean McVay.

After rushing for 305 yards on 79 attempts over his first 11 games, Michel carried the ball 129 times for 540 yards in the Rams’ final six regular-season games. Cam Akers’s return from a torn Achilles took a hit on his usage in the playoffs, but Michel showed enough to reinforce his reputation as a powerful runner with the ability to shed tackles and move the chains.

He won’t add much to the passing game — Michel has caught just 47 passes in four seasons — but wouldn’t have to with McKissic on the roster. The Georgia product would be a strong complement to Gibson in the backfield while alleviating any pressure on Patterson as he continues his development further down on the depth chart.


McKissic was an integral part of Washington’s offense in 2021 and his decision whether or not to re-sign will go a long way toward determining how it approaches the running back position in free agency. Without him, the Commanders will have to think big in addressing the position. With him, they can afford to target a player like Michel who only needs to fill a specific role in their offense.

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

2 guards to replace Brandon Scherff

MLB Anthony Hitchens

MLB Leighton Vander Esch

2 interior depth defensive linemen

CB Donte Jackson