Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has made it no secret that Washington is looking to improve at quarterback this offseason, whether that means through free agency, via trade, or in the 2022 NFL Draft.
All options are on the table. So, what does that mean for current Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who started 16 games for the team in 2021 and is the only signal-caller currently under contract for the Commanders next season?
For the soon-to-be 29-year-old, he's "preparing for another quarterback battle."
"It's nothing new in my career. it's been like that since high school. I welcome it. It makes me better," Heinicke said on the Jim Rome Show. "And, I think it makes the guy I'm competing with better. I'm prepared for it. Whatever happens, happens. But, I just want to be there."
Heinicke participated in a quarterback battle last fall with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed a one-year deal with Washington in free agency. However, although Rivera did not name Fitzpatrick the starter right away, it was pretty clear early on how the depth chart would eventually play out. There was no true quarterback battle between Fitzpatrick and Heinicke.
Despite not being named Washington's starter to begin the season, Heinicke was quickly thrust into that starting role after Fitzpatrick suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 1 against the Chargers. Heinicke would hold down that QB1 gig for the remainder of the season, marking the first time in his career he was a true NFL starter.
"It did. It exceeded it. It was a lot of fun," Heinicke said when asked if his expectation matched the reality of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. "It's something I grew up dreaming of, being a starter in the NFL. I got to live my dream this year."
Heinicke's tenure as Washington's starter was a rollercoaster. The former Old Dominion star had some excellent highs, including game-winning drives against the Giants, Falcons and Raiders. Yet, Heinicke's struggles were evident, too. His physical limitations hampered him at times, while his knack for turning over the football was a constant theme throughout the season, especially during the team's two four-game losing streaks.
Washington Football Talk Podcast | Listen and Subscribe | Watch on Youtube
So, although Heinicke did get to live out what he called a childhood dream this past fall, he also experienced some of the low-lights that come with being a starting QB in the NFL.
"You get a lot of credit when you win and you get a lot of blame when you lose. You have to know how to handle that," Heinicke said.
What's next for Heinicke in Washington remains unknown, besides the fact that he'll be with the team in some capacity. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner -- who coached Heinicke in Minnesota and Carolina prior to Washington -- said following the season that the quarterback will "be a factor" for the team in 2022, regardless of any other QB moves the team makes during the offseason.
Heinicke doesn't know what role he'll play for the Commanders next season. In fact, nobody really does until Washington makes a significant offseason move at the position -- whether that's via trade, in the draft or free agency.
So for now, Heinicke is only focused on what he can control: training for another NFL season and getting ready to compete with whoever else the Burgundy and Gold add to the quarterback room over the coming months.
"When you get that taste of being a starter in the NFL, you don't want to give it up," Heinicke said. "So that's the offseason training. You're working to be a starter in the NFL. Now, sometimes, realistically, you're put in a backup spot. That's cool, too. I just want to be a part of a team. I want to push some guys and I want to be part of something special where we're working to win a Super Bowl."