Love it or hate it, Carson Wentz is the new QB1 of the Washington Commanders.
Ron Rivera and crew gave up multiple picks over the next few seasons to secure Wentz as their top passer, and even if it’s only for next season, he’s the plan in 2022.
Wentz has strengths - and weaknesses - but like any signal-caller, he could use some help. Here are three moves that could help the Commanders new QB a lot.
Go big at tight end
It's no coincidence that Wentz's best seasons in Philadelphia came with Zach Ertz as his tight end. While the QB missed some time due to injuries, from 2017 to 2019 Ertz averaged 92 catches per season for nearly 1,000 yards and more than seven touchdowns per season. Sure the Commanders have Logan Thomas and he's a good player, but he also tore ligaments in his knee last December. Thomas should be back and ready to go by Week 1 2022, but adding Ertz would give Washington two strong pass-catching tight end options, and one player that Wentz has extreme familiarity with.
Washington could rely on plenty of 12 personnel and have Thomas and Ertz on the field at the same time, a formation generally seen as favorable to young QBs. What's one major reason the Patriots signed both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry last season? To make life easier for Mac Jones. Now of course Wentz isn't a rookie, he's 29, but Washington should be looking to make things easier for the new signal-caller.
Washington Football Talk Podcast | Listen and Subscribe | Watch on YouTube
The Washington brass thought they addressed their lack of playmakers last offseason by adding Curtis Samuel to play alongside franchise star Terry McLaurin. Well, that was hardly a fix. Samuel barely played last season and dealt with nagging leg injuries. Late in the year, some sources indicated the team thought Samuel could play and he just wouldn't push through the injury.
Asked about Samuel at the NFL Scouting Combine in early March, Rivera hardly sounded bullish about the receiver's 2022 prospects: "My understanding so far is everything when, when he left was trending in the right direction. We haven't had our hands on him yet. We do know in communicating that he's been working, doing the things that he needs to. We'll see him hopefully soon."
That's hardly a ringing endorsement for Samuel's health, though it is just the offseason.
Regardless, the Commanders need more playmakers at wide receiver, and that's where the 11th overall pick comes in. Whether it's Garrett Wilson or Treylon Burks or Drake London, the Burgundy and Gold need to turn in a draft card with a wideout on it. This draft has a ton of great WR options and it's time Washington spent more than a third-round pick on the position.
Also, and this is an ugly reality to think about, McLaurin is going into the final year of his rookie contract. Maybe the team will get a deal done, but a franchise tag future for Terry doesn't seem impossible. It's time to get better at receiver for multiple reasons.
Bring J.D. McKissic back
Washington's offense ran best when J.D. McKissic was available to spell Antonio Gibson. McKissic is a natural pass catcher that runs smooth routes and has a proven ability to make big plays. He's the best pass-blocking back on the team, and with a QB prone to bad plays and fumbles, McKissic protecting Wentz with the blitz-bearing down seems quite important.
When the Commanders signed McKissic two years ago the move was treated with a whimper, but he's proven to be a breakout player on a team-friendly deal. Undoubtedly his market will look different this offseason even after last year's injury, and maybe the Washington brass thinks they can find another McKissic on the market - an under-the-radar contributor ready for a big role. Considering the move for Wentz shows an impetus to win and make a playoff run this year, letting McKissic walk seems like a gamble.
What's that old saying about a bird in hand?
It's obvious Wentz takes over a sizable chunk of the Commanders' cap space, and signing veteran players like Ertz and McKissic won't come for free. Neither will be close to the top of the market, however, and their impact could outpace the costs. Good teams make cap situations work, and Washington has already begun to clear cap space with the expected release of Landon Collins and a possible restructuring or contract extension with left guard Ereck Flowers.
Simply put - the Commanders made a big move for Wentz and now need to put him in a position to succeed. Make the pick and make the cap work.