* With the Super Bowl in the past and the 2020 season in the books, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux and Ryan Homler take a look at 10 potential free agents that the Washington Football Team could benefit from signing this offseason. Next up: two quarterback options.
As of now, the only known thing about the Washington Football Team's quarterback situation is that Taylor Heinicke will be back.
Kyle Allen, an exclusive rights free agent, has a good chance of returning as well as his rehab continues to progress following an injury during the 2020 season. Alex Smith is still under contract, but his price, age and lack of mobility all leave questions.
Even if somehow all three were to return, it would not mean that Washington's quarterback conundrum is really solved. None of the three should really be viewed as starters that can elevate the offense and the team to a new level. Therefore, it makes sense that Washington has been involved in plenty of rumors this offseason as the QB carousel begins to spin.
Yet for the most part, these rumors involve big names. Matt Stafford -- who is now off the market -- Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr are a few that the team has been linked to. It would be great if one lands in Washington, but it would also be very challenging to make it happen.
Not only is it uncertain if any of those names not moved yet end up on new teams, but the price to get a deal done would be a lot. It would mean Washington must mortgage some of the future, and even then it's hard to know if their offer could best another team with more draft capital.
So in a scenario in which Washington misses out on a big prize, what happens next? When evaluating what QBs could already be on the roster, it makes sense that Ron Rivera and company may still want another arm to mix in. Someone that could be a starter or at least compete with the others. In a trade, maybe Marcus Mariota makes sense.
However, there are also free-agent options that fit this description. Two quarterbacks who won't cost a ton and don't need draft capital to acquire but can still potentially produce in Washington. Here's a look:
2011 second-round pick from TCU; Unrestricted free agent; 6-foot-2 | 220 lbs. | 33 years old
After seeing how he performed in two contests vs. Washington in 2020 and the fact that he's 33 years old (though Tom Brady really just proved that age is just a number), Dalton is probably a name most Washington fans would pass on upon first glance. It's understandable, but there is actually is still upside to signing the QB to a cheap contract in free agency.
His 2020 season as a whole was not that bad (2,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 11 games) and there were flashes of play where it looked as if Dalton's career as a starter should not be put to bed just yet. It's also important to remember that the veteran has plenty of experience doing just that. He's not a career backup, as this was his first season in that role.
With the Bengals, Dalton spent nine seasons as a starter, went to three Pro Bowls and led his team to the postseason four times. He may have never been an elite quarterback, but there were years where he was performing at a high-level and getting things done.
Even toward the back end of his career, the arm is still there and he has the ability to make throws accurately and stretch the field. There is also slightly more mobility than people give him credit for as well. He can extend plays outside the pocket and use his legs when needed. Both of those traits would be an upgrade to what Washington has primarily worked with in the past.
Remember, this is a scenario in which Washington was unable to obtain a big name and is left with Heinicke, Allen and maybe Smith. Does Heinicke potentially have more upside than Dalton? Sure. But he's played in two NFL games and still needs to prove that on a consistent basis.
Bringing in Dalton gives Washington a veteran, experienced passer who can navigate the offense admirably should the team be unable to find the "quarterback of the future just yet." It's not flashy, but it's also not a bad backup plan.
2016 third-round pick from NC State; Unrestricted free agent; 6-foot-4 | 238 lbs. | 28 years old
Brissett is a very similar option to Dalton. A veteran with starter experience who can fill in and add a competitive name to the mix. What makes him appealing to Washington is that he has found success in being a plug-in option at any time.
Most recently in 2019, Brissett began the season expecting to back up Andrew Luck. Then Luck retired and all of the sudden he was the guy. What did he do? Just lead the team to a 7-8 record in his 15 games played while throwing for 18 touchdowns to only six interceptions. He also added 228 yards and four scores on the ground.
Sure, on paper those numbers and wins aren't mind-blowing. But when you consider the adversity Brissett faced as he was just thrust into the role with little time to prepare, it's pretty impressive. Throughout his career, he's demonstrated that when his name is called upon he can perform. There is starter potential, and if that doesn't prove to be true, he's one of the best backups the league has to offer.
Washington could use either if the quarterback room is not going to have a "star" in 2021. At just 28, who is to say that Brissett can't have a Ryan Tannehill-like transformation when entering a new situation. There is arm talent and a lot of mobility that plays well in Washington's system and having an opportunity to compete for a job rather than assume the backup role immediately could benefit him.
Even if that doesn't happen, having Brissett gives Washington a dependable backup option should injuries or inconsistent plague the team once again.
These two quarterbacks don't carry the weight a Watson or Carr would, but it's fair to be ready for a reality in which the QB carousel doesn't bring a top-level talent to Washington. Should that be the case, either of these two quarterbacks could be less-flashy options who improve the position.
Other Free Agent Targets: