The Washington Football Team will enter the 2021 season with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starting quarterback, an upgrade from the carousel they had last fall but hardly a long-term solution. While head coach Ron Rivera hasn't ruled out Fitzpatrick being around for a while, odds are that the 38-year-old is not a permanent fix.
In 2022, Washington will likely be in the quarterback market once again. And, there is a solid chance multiple talented signal-callers will be available, including Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, who just agreed to a restructured deal with the Packers that will give him his choice of where to play next fall.
Speaking on BMitch & Finlay, NFL cap analyst Mike Ginnitti, who runs the popular salary cap website Spotrac, believes Washington will be in a great position cap-wise next offseason to make a run on the top quarterbacks available.
"They have minimal roster spots allocated right now, so they can be flexible with how they sign players," Ginnitti said. "And, they have upwards of $60 million in cap space, according to what I'm projecting right now. If you're talking about going to get an Aaron Rodgers, a Russell Wilson -- let's swing big here -- the cap space is going to be there initially, which is really what teams have to worry about."
Washington having a lot of cap space is something Ginnitti believes will be "attractive" to veteran free-agent quarterbacks considering where to play.
"By having cap space next year, that's even more ammo to have to work within terms of negotiations when they are trying to pull one of these guys in," he said.
Washington also has a young, talented defense that finished second overall in yards allowed last fall. For quarterbacks looking for a new team, playing alongside a talented defense is something that could influence their decision.
"Having a defense, it's one of the reasons Tom Brady did what he did. He looked at both sides of the ball in Tampa Bay and said 'Hey, this is a comfortable fit for me from every angle,'" Ginnitti said. "I think Washington is set up extremely nicely to be one of these top teams for these veteran quarterbacks, regardless of how they have to acquire it."
Washington just extended defensive tackle Jonathan Allen on Monday, but the rest of the defensive core -- Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, and Kamren Curl, among others -- are all still on their rookie deals.
Some of them, particularly Young and Sweat, will likely earn lucrative deals in the future. However, with Young still having multiple years left on his rookie deal, the earliest he could be due for an extension is after the 2022 season.
That's a good thing for Washington cap-wise, according to Ginnitti.
"[Young] can't even be touched until after 2022. It's probably going to be $30 million a year at that point, if I'm being honest," he said. "So, the fact that they have all of next year to reset themselves financially, maybe take some of those contracts off, some restructures if they have to go that route, the fact that they probably need and will get a quarterback next year, in some capacity, is a good thing."
As we've seen this offseason, things change quickly in the NFL. So, for Washington, thinking about going after a high-profile quarterback next offseason feels years away.
For 2021, Washington will roll into the season with Fitzpatrick as its QB1 and Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen as the backups. In total, Washington will spend less than $20 million on its quarterback room this season.
That should pay dividends for Washington long-term.
"I really think the way they handled the quarterback situation this year is going to be brilliant for them in the long term. They slow-played it this year, many teams would not have done that. I think that's one of the smartest moves they've made over the past couple of seasons and it's going to pay its benefits next year."