Following the Commanders' 2022 regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 8, quarterback Taylor Heinicke told reporters he was "100%" open to returning to Washington.
One month and a day later, Heinicke -- who is set to become a free agent in March -- joined the Pat McAfee Show in radio row at the Super Bowl and reiterated his interest in coming back to the franchise he's spent the last two and a half seasons with.
"I might be back there. I'd love to be back there," Heinicke said, before later adding, "I don't think I'm allowed to talk about it. ... There are a lot of moving parts. A lot of big-time free agents over there."
There appears to be mutual interest in a return to Washington, too. Head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew praised the quarterback during their end-of-season press conference in mid-January and left the door open for a potential return.
"He was instrumental, I thought, in salvaging our season," Mayhew said on Jan. 10. "I thought he did a really good job getting us back on track and back winning games."
"Taylor is a guy that's done some really good things for us," Rivera added.
Heinicke, who turns 30 years old in March, said he's hoping to find an opportunity where he'll have the chance to start but is also willing to take on a backup role if that doesn't come available.
"I want to play. I want to start," Heinicke said. "If that opportunity doesn't come up, being a backup quarterback in the NFL is probably one of the best jobs in America. Either way, I'm just happy to be in the league. You know my story."
Heinicke's desire to start is understandable. He's begun each of the past two years as the Commanders' backup but was forced into action following an injury to the starter in both campaigns.
In 2021, Heinicke went 7-8 as a starter, a respectable record for a guy who had just two NFL starts (including playoffs) to his name prior to the year. In 2022, Heinicke took over a 2-4 Commanders team and led them to five wins in his first six starts, including an epic road victory over the previously undefeated and now-Super Bowl-bound Eagles.
Heinicke's play did fall off a tad towards the end of the year, which eventually led to Rivera benching him for Week 1 starter Carson Wentz, a move that immediately backfired. Heinicke handled the situation as professionally as possible but admitted to McAfee that the entire situation was tough to swallow.
"I’m not going to say I felt disrespected," Heinicke said. "It was just kind of the communication of how it all went down that I wasn’t very happy about."
If Heinicke were to return to Washington, the starting job wouldn't automatically be his. Rivera said earlier this week that Sam Howell, a fifth-round pick in 2022, will be the club's starter entering the offseason program. With some advice from Heinicke, Rivera opted to name Howell as Washington's starter for the final week of the 2022 season versus Dallas. Howell impressed with both his arm and his legs in that matchup, accounting for two touchdowns in Washington's upset win over the Cowboys.
Rivera did stress that Howell will have to earn the QB1 job, though, and there will be competition. Should Heinicke re-sign with the Commanders, he could be that competition Rivera wants.
When asked about Howell on Thursday, Heinicke had plenty of positive things to say about the 22-year-old.
"The dude is a dog. The dude can ball," Heinicke said. "He went out there [versus Dallas] and balled out. I'm very excited for him. He's got a bright future ahead of him. All the guys in the locker room believe in him, too."