New Commanders offensive lineman Nick Gates expects to line up at center for the club, as the player himself recently indicated (Twitter link via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post). Gates signed a three-year, $16.5MM contract with Washington earlier this month.
The former UDFA of the Giants saw his first regular season action in 2019, appearing in 16 games (three starts) before becoming Big Blue’s full-time starter at center in 2020. The advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus were not particularly fond of his performance that year, though New York thought highly enough of him to keep him at center going into the 2021 campaign and name him a team captain. Unfortunately, he suffered a career-threatening leg fracture in Week 2 of the 2021 season — after he was moved to left guard out of necessity — but made it back on the field halfway through the 2022 slate.
Gates’ contract value and length suggests that the Commanders see him as a starter, not as a backup. Which means that Chase Roullier, a former stalwart at center whose strong performance landed him a four-year, $40.5MM extension with Washington in January 2021, could be on the outs (though that is simply my speculation at this point). Due to multiple serious injuries — a fibula fracture in 2021 and an MCL tear in 2022 — Roullier has played in just 10 of a possible 34 regular season contests over the last two years, and his release would create $8.4MM of cap space if he were to be designated as a post-June 1 cut.
In related news, Washington plans to slide Samuel Cosmi to right guard, as John Keim of ESPN.com writes. Cosmi, a 2021 second-round pick, has taken most of his pro snaps at right tackle and has played reasonably well there. However, he has dealt with injury issues in each of his first two seasons in the league, and the Commanders recently signed Andrew Wylie to man the RT post.
Per Keim, the club is likely to add more O-line reinforcements in this year’s draft.