Commanders Release LT Charles Leno

Cost-cutting season continues around the NFL. Left tackle Charles Leno has been told by the Commanders that he is being released, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. The team has since announced the move.

As Rapoport notes, Leno is set to undergo hip surgery next week. That procedure will no doubt be a factor in determining his free agent value, just as it played a role in today’s move. The 32-year-old was limited to 13 games this season (his fewest since his rookie season), and he ended the year on injured reserve due to a calf injury.

Leno began his career with a seven-year Bears stint. He initially came to the nation’s capital on a one-year pact, but he had been attached to a three-year, $37.5MM extension inked in 2022. One year remained on that contract, and he was due $12MM in 2024. With none of his base salary guaranteed, however, Leno profiled as a release candidate for this offseason.

Releasing the former Pro Bowler now will generate $7.28MM in cap space while incurring a dead cap charge of $8.25MM. Designating Leno a post-June 1 cut, by contrast, would yield $11.78MM in savings and a much smaller dead money figure. Washington would not see that added flexibility until June, though, well after the initial waves of free agency. Already armed with considerable cap space, the team will be able to handle an immediate release and remain in position to spend big on the open market.

Leno remained a consistent performer along the blindside during his Commanders tenure. He earned a PFF grade of at least 71.6 in each campaign with the team, drawing strong marks for pass protection in particular. That remained the case in 2023, when he ranked 28th overall out of 81 qualifying tackles. With the former seventh-rounder now out of the picture, though, the LT spot could see notable turnover in Washington this offseason.

Fellow veteran Cornelius Lucas – who filled in as a starter to close out the season after Leno was shut down – is a pending free agent. Both he and Leno could thus be playing elsewhere next season, leaving the Commanders in search of replacements along the blindside. Improvement up front will be a major priority for the offseason, after quarterback Sam Howell was sacked a league-leading 65 times in 2023.

The Commanders have former UDFAs Julian Good-Jones and Alex Akingbulu under contract for next season. The same is also true of Braeden Daniels, who was drafted in the fourth round last April but spent his entire rookie campaign on injured reserve. Washington will have the cap space to pursue a veteran O-lineman or two to supplement the team’s in-house options, as well as draft capital to make a long-term investment up front. Meanwhile, Leno will turn his attention to his operation and, following that, his free agent market.

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