Sam Howell will get the first crack at being the Washington Commanders' starting quarterback in 2023.
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said in an interview with NFL Network on Wednesday that Howell, a fifth-round pick in last April's draft, will "more than likely" be the club's starter entering the offseason program.
"I know this: we will go into OTAs, minicamp and training camp with Sam Howell more than likely [our] QB1," Rivera said. "We'll see what happens."
Moving forward with Howell doesn't necessarily come as a surprise. Earlier this offseason, multiple reports surfaced that the Commanders were telling potential offensive coordinators that the second-year pro will be QB1 entering the season. Also, as it currently stands, the Commanders don't have a better option.
Howell, 22, is one of two Washington quarterbacks that are currently under contract for the 2023 season. However, the other is Carson Wentz, whom the Commanders can release this offseason without any financial penalty -- Wentz does not have any guaranteed money remaining on his current deal, either. Taylor Heinicke, who started nine games for the Commanders last season, is a free agent.
Although Rivera said Wednesday that Howell will begin the offseason as the team's starter, he quickly emphasized that the job won't be given to him.
"It's his opportunity. This is a challenge to him," Rivera said. "If he comes out and does the things he's capable of, we believe he's capable of, he can most certainly be our guy. But we'll find out. That's what competition is going to do, it's going to bring out the best in all our guys."
Whether it's a veteran or through the draft, the Commanders will certainly add to their quarterback room before the offseason program starts in late April. During the club's season-ending press conference, Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew made it clear the franchise will evaluate the entire quarterback landscape, once again, in an attempt to upgrade the position.
"You pretty much have to enter every season looking at the entire landscape of what's available," Mayhew said on Jan. 10. "I thought we did a really good job of that last year... We will do the same thing this year. We're not going to rule out acquiring a vet. We'll go through the entire landscape of who's available, we'll evaluate them, and we'll get to a consensus on somebody."
As a rookie, Howell spent the majority of the year on the bench. He began the campaign as the Commanders' third-string QB behind Wentz and Heinicke but was elevated to the backup gig in Week 7 when Wentz went down with a finger injury. However, Howell returned to the third-string role when Wentz was activated later in the season. He remained in that spot until the final week of the season when Rivera named Howell the club's starter against Dallas once the Commanders were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
In his lone start as a rookie, Howell impressed. The former North Carolina star threw a touchdown to Terry McLaurin on his first career pass. Outside of a red zone interception, Howell turned in a rather impressive performance -- 11-of-19 passing for 169 yards, 35 rushing yards and two total touchdowns -- in Washington's blowout upset victory over the Cowboys.
"He did things that we believe he can, he's capable of," Rivera said on Howell's performance following the game. "I thought he handled it very nicely, went out and did some really good things."