Rivera seeks elite QB but says team can win with second-tier option

Rivera at Combine

Since Ron Rivera took the podium on Jan. 2, 2020, when introduced as the then-Redskins head coach, one of the biggest priorities he set out to accomplish was to find a franchise quarterback.

Over two years and two name changes later, Washington remains on that quest to find its long-term QB. Rivera has been open about the necessity to solve Washington's need at the sport's most important position, particularly this offseason. So, when the Commanders' boss answered questions about the topic at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday, he let everyone know Washington is open for business.

"We’re trying to let people know, 'Hey, we’re interested,’" Rivera said.

The quarterback market has been especially quiet thus far this offseason, largely due to uncertainty surrounding the three elite passers that could be on the move. Aaron Rodgers has yet to inform the Packers of what he'd like to do, while Deshaun Watson's legal situation has complicated matters for the Texans. Russell Wilson says he wants to remain in Seattle "right now," but his situation has been fluid.

Rivera has made it clear that his top choice for upgrading the position is, naturally, trading for an already established elite quarterback. On Tuesday, he pointed out on various occasions that no one cares what the Rams gave up to acquire Matthew Stafford last offseason, as Stafford led Los Angeles to a Super Bowl title in his first season with the club.


Asked if trading for an elite passer -- like how the Rams did for Stafford -- would allow the Commanders to truly jump into title contention, Rivera responded with "we believe we've put ourselves in position to."

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After Rodgers, Watson and Wilson, there's a significant dropoff in available veteran talent. The second tier of quarterbacks that could be options for Washington is highlighted by Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz, and Marcus Mariota.

However, even if Washington does miss out on one of the elite passers, Rivera believes the Commanders can still win with a second-tier veteran quarterback.

"I believe you can. I believe you can win," Rivera said. "A quarterback of that [elite] caliber, it helps you obviously. When you go to that next group, a quarterback of that ability is a guy you win with, and you win because of his abilities. To me, it’s either looking at it, ‘Hey, this is going to be easier to do,’ or, ‘We’ve got to be better here in these specific areas.’ So whichever route we take, I just know that we’re going to fortify the other parts here."

With free agency set to begin in roughly two weeks, the Commanders have over $30 million in cap space entering free agency, the ninth-most of any team. Having an answer at QB beforehand -- and knowing how much cap space that QB will cost -- will largely impact how the Commanders choose to attack free agency. Rivera understands that the quicker Washington has a solution at quarterback, the better, but says all the team can do right now is react to everything else that happens around the league.

"The truth of the matter is you have to react," Rivera said. "As we go through this process, we're looking at the avenues. We don't know when it [will] happen. But will we be ready? I believe we will, either way."

The other option Washington has to seek a franchise quarterback is through the NFL Draft. However, the 2022 QB class has been viewed by many draft experts as a weak one. Washington could select a signal-caller at No. 11, but many feel the value at the spot is simply not there.

Rivera was asked about the possibility of taking a rookie quarterback on Tuesday. The head coach said he would be "comfortable" doing so, but also made it clear it wouldn't be "ideal."

"I'd be fine with it. The big thing more than anything else, and the reason I'd be comfortable with a rookie, is just because of the players we have," he said. "We have a solid offensive line. We've got skilled players at the skill positions. Would it be ideal? No. But I would be comfortable."


It's also worth noting that Washington has Taylor Heinicke still under contract in 2022. Heinicke started 16 games for the club in 2021 -- and while he proved he's likely not a long-term starter, he certainly earned a backup gig in the NFL for years to come.

"Based on what he showed us last year, he's a guy that deserves an opportunity more than anything else," Rivera said on Heinicke.

For now, Washington is in a waiting game when it comes to the QB market, waiting for the first domino to fall. But once it does, things are expected to happen quickly. Rivera and his staff believe they're ready for what's to come.

"I think the big thing, more than anything else, is we're just waiting to hear what's going to happen," Rivera said. "We've kind of been in that mode. We'll just continue to wait that part of the process out."