Commanders

Rivera wants to provide Wentz with more offensive help

Commanders
Carson Wentz

With Carson Wentz now in a Commanders uniform, it's up to Ron Rivera to choose between surrounding Wentz with the most dangerous offense possible or partially preparing for a Wentz-less future by drafting a quarterback at the end of April.

The coach may have given a hint on Tuesday about the route he's leaning toward taking.

"You guys have heard me say this when I first got here: We've got to make sure we can protect our quarterback and we've got to make sure we've got playmakers around him," Rivera told reporters in Florida at the annual league meeting. "We've got to continue to look at what our options are, not only in free agency but in getting ready for the draft. What impact position player can we find through the draft?"

Washington's first two selections in the event sit at No. 11 and No. 47, meaning they're set up to have a bounty of difference-makers to pick from at the skill spots, particularly receiver.

Should the team nab, say, Ohio State wideout Chris Olave in the first round and Colorado State tight end Trey McBride in the second, that'll unquestionably increase Wentz's chances of finding success in 2022. Those kinds of choices would make the "impact" Rivera craves.

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But due to the structure of Wentz's contract — he can be released after the season with no financial consequences — perhaps it's prudent for the franchise to hedge its bet on Wentz.

In that scenario, the Commanders could still draft a pass-catcher to open up the draft and then opt to acquire a rookie passer in subsequent rounds, a prospect that could be developed and step up if Wentz fails.

For what it's worth, members of Washington's coaching staff were in attendance at various pro days featuring this year's top college signal-callers. Whether that was to do genuine research or just feign interest in order to hide their eventual plans will probably be revealed by their April actions.

In a Tuesday one-on-one interview with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay, Rivera acknowledged that further bolstering Wentz's is a "priority." Right after that remark, however, he made sure to explain that he's maintaining an open mind.

"You don't necessarily have to add a weapon," Rivera told Finlay. "There are some quality offensive and defensive players that don't play quarterback, don't play wide receiver, running back or tight end that we have to really look at."

So, in evaluating all of Rivera's above comments, it sounds like identifying and acquiring someone who can make Wentz's throwing life easier is Washington's preferred way to go. But because the draft involves more deception than a play-action, double-reverse flea-flicker, he made a point of advocating for all potential picks.

To the ever-optimistic Rivera, it's not just about whom the Commanders are yet to bring in. It's also about whom they already deploy and whom they're slated to bring back. While 2021's numbers suggest otherwise, he is sanguine about the team's present offensive situation.

"You've got Terry [McLaurin], who's a 1,000-yard receiver two years in a row," he told Finlay. You've got Antonio Gibson, who's a 1,000-yard rusher. And then you've got some guys that'll be coming back off of injury, and you feel pretty good about it if we can keep everybody healthy and ready to roll. I think we've got some pretty good pieces."

A nucleus of Wentz, McLaurin, Gibson, a rehabbed Curtis Samuel, a rehabbed Logan Thomas and an improved Dyami Brown is rather enticing, but the latter three names are difficult to count on due to a combination of their health and recent production. Therefore, Washington would be wise to keep reinforcing the offense — and fortunately, Rivera appears to understand the necessity of that approach. 

"With the draft still and free agency still to be completed, we feel we have a chance to continue to add to that," he said.

At this point of the calendar, the free-agent market is relatively dried up. The real window for the Commanders to expand its offense will be when the draft begins. And though an argument can be made to secure a younger quarterback, Rivera might be more drawn to the idea of assisting his current quarterback.