Sam Howell

Commanders HC Ron Rivera Talks QB, Payne, Young

The Commanders continue to reiterate that Sam Howell will be their QB1 heading into training camp. During an appearance on PFT Live, head coach Ron Rivera reinforced Howell’s standing as the top quarterback, but he acknowledged the team may bring in a veteran to push him.

[RELATED: Commanders Committed To Sam Howell As QB1]

“The biggest thing we decided is he will start out as QB1,” Rivera said (via Charean Williams of “He will most certainly get the first opportunity. We go into OTAs and minicamp, he’ll be QB1. He’ll fight for that position. We’ll give him every opportunity to earn it, and we’ll see what happens when we get into training camp and through it.”

Last year, the Commanders pursued QBs like Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, and Derek Carr. This time around, they’re not looking to make a big splash at the position, as Rivera dismissed the notion that the organization would pursue a big name.

“No. No,” Rivera said. “I think the biggest thing is we have to find a guy to come in that’s going to compete, but in terms of finding a guy you’re going to have to spend a lot of capital on, no. We’re not looking for a guy we’ve got to spend a lot of capital on. We’re looking for a guy that’s going to come in and compete first and foremost.”

Rivera expressed a similar sentiment to ESPN’s John Keim, noting that the front office will not spend “big capital” at the position (Twitter link). The team will save a significant chunk of cap when they inevitably cut Carson Wentz, but we previously heard that the organization liked the idea of starting a QB on a rookie contract and spending those savings elsewhere. Howell, a 2022 fifth-round pick, only got one start as a rookie, completing 11 of his 19 pass attempts for 169 yards, one touchdown, and one interception en route to a Week 18 win over the Cowboys.

Meanwhile, Rivera told Keim that the Commanders have reached out to defensive tackle Daron Payne‘s reps but have yet to talk money. The impending free agent had his best season in 2022, finishing with a career-high 11.5 sacks. Another important defensive line decision will surround former second-overall pick Chase Young; the Commanders will have to soon make a decision on his fifth-year option. Rivera told Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post that the team has yet to make a decision on Young, noting that they still need to evaluate his health and development (Twitter link). However, Rivera wasn’t too worried about the perception if the Commanders decline the player’s option, noting that the Commanders followed a similar path with Payne.

“No. Because that’s what we did with Daron,” Rivera explained. “It cost us. But it cost us in a good way, because the young man played, he did things the right way. He didn’t sit out, he didn’t withhold, he could have done that sit-in during training camp, but he didn’t. And because he didn’t, now we’re in that position where we have to find a way to say thank you, OK, you’ve earned it.”

Commanders Pursued Derek Carr In 2022; Team Open To Veteran Addition

Participating in the veteran quarterback market several times since Kirk Cousins‘ franchise tags led to a departure, Washington has since been linked to cooling off those pursuits. An unexpected Sam Howell promotion, after a one-start season, is being considered.

But the team will not rule out the possibility it again acquires a veteran. After discussing a few vets last year, the team will at least have Howell in the mix for its 2023 starting job. Third-year GM Martin Mayhew, however, said the team will look into an experienced option again.

You pretty much every season have to look at the entire landscape of what’s available,” Mayhew said, via Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that last year. We will do the same things this year. We’re not going to rule out acquiring a vet. We’ll go through the entire landscape of who’s available. We’ll evaluate them, and we’ll get to a consensus.”

Last year’s search included pursuits of Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, with a three-first-rounder offer being sent to the Seahawks for the latter. Wilson’s no-trade clause intervened, as it did for other non-Broncos teams as well. But the Commanders’ 2022 search also included calls to the Raiders on their then-starter. The Raiders fielded multiple inquiries from the Commanders about Derek Carr last year, according to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports.

The Raiders’ Dave ZieglerJosh McDaniels regime rebuffed the Commanders’ Carr interest, preferring to see if the longtime starter proved a fit in McDaniels’ offense. After Carr did not impress with McDaniels, the Raiders are ready to see what they can get for the 31-year-old passer. They will try to trade Carr and his $40.4MM guarantee, which vests Feb. 15, to stockpile assets for the future. The recent Howell buzz aside, it seems logical the Commanders will revisit Carr as an option.

Washington stands to save $26.2MM by releasing Carson Wentz, who remains on his Eagles extension from 2019. The team would take on a larger contract with Carr, and the former Pro Bowler has a no-trade clause included in his half-measure extension agreed to in 2022. That complicates any team’s pursuit of Carr, who confirmed he wants another chance to start. It will be interesting to see how many teams are truly in the mix for the solid-but-unspectacular passer, who could follow the likes of Alex Smith and Matthew Stafford in being part of a mid-winter trade.

Washington participated in the first of those trades, obtaining Smith from the Chiefs for Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick. The team then extended Smith, but his gruesome leg injury opened the floodgates at this position in Washington. Should Howell or any non-Wentz arm start for the team to open the 2023 season, it will mark the team’s seventh season-opening QB in seven years. Taylor Heinicke is not among this contingent, having replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick minutes into the latter’s Washington debut/one-off last season, and he will be an unrestricted free agent come March.

Mayhew called Howell’s Week 18 outing against the Cowboys promising but cautioned that was “a very small sample” to judge and “there’s going to be a lot of evaluation process for him.” Will that performance stop the team from chasing a higher-profile option?

Commanders Committed To Sam Howell As QB1

Plenty can change over the next few months, but at the moment, the Commanders are preparing as if Sam Howell will be their starting quarterback in 2023. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports writes that the Commanders are telling potential offensive coordinator candidates that Howell is expected to be the team’s QB1 when they open camp.

[RELATED: Commanders Contact Jim Caldwell About OC Job]

While the Commanders seem to be making it clear that they won’t be making a big splash at the position (either via free agency, trade, or with the No. 16 in the draft), ESPN’s John Keim cautions (on Twitter) that Howell still has to win the job. As Keim notes, “other options will be discussed” for the position, while Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports still expects the front office “to really look at QB options this offseason” (Twitter link).

After being selected in the fifth round of the 2022 draft, Howell spent most of his rookie campaign behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. He started the Commanders’ Week 18 win over the Cowboys, completing 11 of his 19 pass attempts for 169 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also added another 35 yards and a touchdown on five carries. As Nicki Jhabvala tweets, the Commanders front office likes the idea of having a starting QB on a rookie contract, and they’re apparently confident enough in what they saw in 2022 to hand Howell the reigns in 2023.

While the writing was on the wall, this report seems to indicate that Wentz will be one-and-done in Washington. The organization has an easy out on his contract that will leave them with no dead cap. Meanwhile, Heinicke has continued to find himself in Ron Rivera‘s dog house, a strong indication that the fan favorite isn’t part of the team’s plans for 2023. Further, Rivera didn’t really give either of the two QBs a ringing endorsement when discussing the position earlier this week.

“It comes back to the one question that’s looming over everybody, and that’s the quarterback position,” Rivera said (via Vacchiano). “I was kind of hoping that we had found a solution. And who knows? We may not. We may have.”

Speaking of the team’s offensive coordinator search, Jhabvala tweets that the organization is “getting a list together” of potential candidates to replace Scott Turner. Pat Shurmur is the latest addition to the grouping, with Jhabvala pointing out the coach’s ability to develop young QBs. The former Giants and Browns head coach most previously served as the Broncos offensive coordinator during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Commanders QBs coach Ken Zampese was previously mentioned for a possible promotion to OC, while former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell declined the team’s interview request.

Commanders To Start QB Sam Howell In Week 18

12:35pm: It will actually be Howell who gets the call. The Commanders announced the rookie will make his NFL debut and start against the Cowboys. Considering Wentz’s status and Heinicke near free agency, it certainly makes sense for Washington to see what it has in Howell. The 6-foot-1 signal-caller served as North Carolina’s starter for three seasons.

8:30am: Carson Wentz‘s three-interception showing in Week 17 looks like it will be his final appearance with the Commanders. The team plans to pivot back to Taylor Heinicke for its season finale, Jeremy Fowler of tweets.

The Commanders made their benching of Heinicke official a week ago, dusting off Wentz ahead of what became a must-win game against the Browns. Wentz struggled but played throughout in a game that eliminated Washington from the playoff race. Heinicke retaking the reins looks to signal the Commanders are again open for business at quarterback.

In addition to Heinicke being reinstated as Washington’s starter, Fowler adds rookie Sam Howell is expected to see action. Washington chose Howell in the fifth round of this year’s draft, and although Wentz’s injury made the North Carolina product Heinicke’s backup for much of this season, the first-year passer has not seen game action. The Commanders will take a look at a player who was not expected to fall to the fifth round.

For Wentz, it looks like he will be on the move for a third consecutive offseason. Both the Colts and Commanders traded for Wentz; each took on his Eagles-constructed contract. It should not be expected another team will do the same this year. Wentz’s $32MM-per-year deal runs through 2024 and calls for a $20MM base salary in 2023. The Commanders would save $26.2MM by releasing Wentz, taking on no dead money in the process.

Given the noise coming out of Indianapolis following a Wentz-piloted collapse in Week 18 of last season, it was surprising when the Commanders gave up two Day 2 draft choices and swapped second-round picks with the Colts to acquire him last March. Washington taking on his full contract also proved surprising, but the team had done extensive homework on the former No. 2 overall pick. Wentz did throw 10 touchdown passes in his first five games with the Commanders and did not have the chance to play with promising rookies Jahan Dotson and Brian Robinson sharing the field. He did have that chance last week but could not come through against the Browns.

Wentz went 16-for-28 against the Browns; the three-INT performance was his first such outing since the 2018 season. The North Dakota State product had shown flashes in both the 2019 and ’21 seasons, leading a shorthanded Eagles team to the 2019 playoffs and finishing last season with a 27-7 TD-INT ratio and a top-10 QBR finish. The broken finger Wentz suffered in Week 6 sidetracked his sixth NFL season. By the time the Commanders activated him from IR, Heinicke had replaced him. There is a good chance Wentz, who turned 30 last week, will be a free agent for the first time fairly soon.

Despite lacking Wentz’s talent, Heinicke helped turn the Commanders’ season around. They went from 1-4 to 7-5 during the former UDFA’s run of starts, but the Old Dominion alum’s surge began to fade come December. The Commanders have not won a game since Nov. 27. Heinicke has completed 62.2% of his passes, with his 7.2 yards-per-attempt number outpacing Wentz’s (6.4). Heinicke, 29, is set to be an unrestricted free agent in March.

Howell left North Carolina following his junior season, and ESPN slotted him as its No. 50 overall prospect. Howell, who had generated first-round buzz during his underclassman years, fell to No. 144 overall. From 2019-20, Howell combined for 68 touchdown passes compared to just 14 interceptions. Seeing a Tar Heel talent exodus ahead of his junior year, Howell saw his numbers dip a bit (24 TD passes, nine INTs, career-low 3,056 yards) in 2021. The Commanders will begin to see what this developmental season has unearthed; Howell’s rookie contract runs through 2025.

Regardless of Howell’s performance, it seems Ron Rivera‘s team will be in the market for another new starter soon. The Commanders were linked to a handful of this year’s passers, even making a three-first-rounder offer for Russell Wilson. The team that has started six Week 1 passers over the past six seasons appears headed for another new signal-caller come September.

Commanders Designate QB Carson Wentz For Return

The Commanders have their highest-paid quarterback back at practice Wednesday. They designated Carson Wentz to return from IR, giving the veteran passer three weeks to be activated.

Wentz suffered a fractured finger during Washington’s Week 6 win in Chicago and underwent surgery. He has missed five games — one more than the minimum for 2022 IR stays — and seen the team change its quarterback plan during that absence. Taylor Heinicke has since regained his spot as the team’s starting quarterback.

Ron Rivera (via’s Zach Selby) has since confirmed Sunday reports that indicated Heinicke would keep his job even when Wentz returns. While Heinicke’s grip on the gig is still somewhat tenuous, the team’s primary 2021 starter retaking the reins doubles as Wentz’s second benching in three seasons. Wentz is unlikely to return this week, per Rivera, who said rookie Sam Howell will remain Heinicke’s backup, Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post tweets.

After inquiring on just about every potentially available quarterback this offseason — one that included a three-first-rounder offer to the Seahawks for Russell Wilson — the Commanders sent the Colts a 2022 third-round pick and a conditional 2023 choice for Wentz. That pick will looks set to become a third-rounder instead of a second, with Wentz unlikely to hit the 70% snap benchmark necessary for the pick to land in Round 2. This comes after Wentz met the participation-based conditions for the Eagles to nab a first-rounder this year. The Commanders and Colts also swapped 2022 second-round picks in this year’s Wentz trade, giving the Colts the No. 42 overall choice and the Commanders the 47th pick.

Wentz, 29, has been unable to re-establish himself as a solid starter in Washington. The team went 2-4 in Wentz’s starts. While wins and losses are obviously far from the best measure for quarterback success, the Commanders’ surge under Heinicke essentially left Rivera with little choice to stay the course. The team is now 6-5 and gunning for a wild-card spot. Wentz has, however, doubled Heinicke in touchdown passes (1o to five). The two are also separated by just 0.4 points in quarterback rating, keeping the door open for Wentz to re-emerge at some point later this season.

The trade prices notwithstanding, the 2020s have represented a steep fall from grace for Wentz. After seeing an ACL tear almost certainly deny him an MVP honor in 2017, Wentz never regained that form. He has shown flashes — helping a receiver-depleted 2019 Eagles team to the playoffs, a 27-7 TD-INT ratio during a polarizing Colts stay that ended quite poorly — but is moving toward failure in his latest bounce-back opportunity. The former No. 2 overall pick is on the Commanders’ books (via the Eagles extension he inked back in 2019) through 2024 but can be jettisoned free of charge next year.

Commanders Name Taylor Heinicke Week 7 Starting QB

Carson Wentz‘s first season in the nation’s capital has been put on pause due to the finger injury he suffered during the team’s Week 6 game. He has since undergone surgery, but is facing a multi-week absence. His immediate replacement was confirmed on Tuesday.

Head coach Ron Rivera named Taylor Heinicke Washington’s starting quarterback for Week 7 against the Packers. That comes as little surprise, given his experience with the team and the total lack thereof regarding the alternative, rookie Sam Howell“We think he’s on track,” Rivera said of Howell, “but Taylor right now gives us the best opportunity to be successful” (Twitter link via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post).

Heinicke, 29, is in his third season with Washington. He dressed for only one regular season contest in 2020, but made a name for himself in the playoffs in a one-score loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. That landed him a two-year extension laden with playing-time incentives.

He started all but one regular season contest he appeared in last year, going 7-8 and completing 65% of his passes. His 6.9 yards per attempt average and 20:15 touchdown-to-interception ratio left plenty to be desired, and made Washington a key player in the offseason QB market. They made a sizeable move in trading for Wentz, but it was made clear after the draft that Heinicke would remain his backup.

Howell will dress as the QB2 on Sunday, after being inactive for the first six weeks of the campaign. The 22-year-old burst onto the scene at North Carolina, throwing 38 touchdowns as a freshman in 2019. After a successful sophomore season, his passing numbers took a step back in 2021, though he added 828 yards and 11 scores on the ground. He ultimately fell to the fifth round – joining a number of other passers in April’s underwhelming class on Day 3 – setting him up for what the team hopes will be a strictly developmental season.

In a depth move to in the wake of Wentz’s absence, the Commanders also signed Jake Fromm to the practice squad, per a team announcement. The former Bills draftee started twice for the Giants last year, and recently worked out with the Dolphins amidst their QB injury woes. A decision on whether or not Wentz will be placed on IR, meanwhile, is expected to be made later this week, reports CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson (Twitter link).

NFC Rumors: Corral, Howell, Garoppolo, Bears

Many expected there to be an early run on quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Although nine passers did hear their names called in the three-day event, only Steelers’ selection Kenny Pickett was a Day 1 pick. With first-round hopefuls such as Desmond Ridder (Falcons), Malik Willis (Titans), and Matt Corral (Panthers) all falling to the later days of the draft, what does the 2022 NFL season look like for each rookie?

When looking at the potential debut dates for each quarterback, it was determined that only one quarterback was essentially a lock to play in their rookie season, according to ESPN’s David Newton, and it isn’t the first-round pick. When breaking down the percentage chance for each quarterback to start in Week 1, the percentage chance for each rookie to sit all season, and the best prediction for when each player will make their first start, Newton gave Carolina’s Corral a zero-percent chance of sitting all season. The next closest was Ridder, who was given a 20% chance of sitting all season, in the case that Mariota solidifies himself as Atlanta’s starter and keeps them near playoff contention.

Corral shares a position room with incumbents Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker, who both failed to impress in starts last year. Even after bringing back Cam Newton, the Panthers didn’t have a single quarterback on their roster complete at least 60% of their passes or throw more touchdowns than they did interceptions. With Carolina seeing such abysmal quarterback play last year, there is absolutely justification in the assertion that the Panthers are almost guaranteed to give Corral a look at some point in the season.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC, starting with a note on another rookie quarterback:

  • Also a first-round hopeful at points in the pre-draft process, Washington’s first selection of the fifth-round this year, Sam Howell, is potentially on the opposite end of the spectrum from Corral. Howell can probably be considered a guarantee to sit his entire rookie season for the Commanders. A couple weeks before deciding to select Howell, Washington traded second- and seventh-round picks to the Colts in exchange for veteran quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz will likely take the starting job in DC with last year’s starter, Taylor Heinicke, filling the role of highly qualified backup. Heinicke, though, is in a contract year and drafting Howell provides the Commanders with the option of letting Heinicke walk if the price isn’t right or the need isn’t there. Unfortunately for Howell, this likely means he won’t see the field anytime soon. Fortunately for Howell, he’ll have the old-fashioned approach of sitting, learning, and developing as a new NFL quarterback.
  • The 49ers have been trying for months to work some trade-value out of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. An intriguing trade possibility was hatched during today’s episode of the 49ers Talk podcast involving another team that been looking for trade partners this offseason. NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco and Jennifer Lee Chan discussed the idea of trading Garoppolo to the Browns. Cleveland has been attempting to dump Baker Mayfield off for some value maybe even more desperately than San Francisco has with Garoppolo and offseason trade acquisition Deshaun Watson could be staring down a year-long suspension. Behind Mayfield and Garoppolo, the Browns roster Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs. While, at times, the Browns have boasted confidence in Brissett should they need him, that confidence may have been based on the assumption that Watson would only miss a couple games. A one-year suspension may have Cleveland entertaining the possibility of acquiring their fourth new quarterback of the offseason.
  • At an extremely unlikely time for such moves to be happening, the Bears fired director of player engagement LaMar Campbell this weekend, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Campbell had been with Chicago since 2015 and was most recently a member of the committee that was assembled as the team searched for a new general manager and head coaching tandem. Not only did Campbell have the trust of the owners and committee, but he was highly respected in the locker room, as well. The timing is rough for Campbell as, at this point in the offseason, most teams have already completed their spring cleaning and hiring of their support staffs.

Seahawks Were High On QB Sam Howell

New Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, whom Washington selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft, had a lot of supporters in the Seahawks organization, per Jeremy Fowler of (subscription required). Seattle, which of course traded franchise icon Russell Wilson to the Broncos earlier this offseason, was connected to collegiate QBs throughout the predraft process, but the team decided against drafting a signal-caller.

Part of the reason for that is the Seahawks’ opinion of Drew Lock and Geno Smith. Head coach Pete Carroll has consistently praised Lock since acquiring him in the Wilson deal, and Smith flashed when filling in for an injured Wilson for a few games in 2021. Plus, as Fowler adds, the team wanted to improve the overall depth of its roster since it had only three selections in the 2021 draft.

The ‘Hawks are particularly high on fourth-round cornerback Coby Bryant, whom they believe only fell to the middle rounds because of injury concerns, and second-round running back Kenneth Walker III, who will pair with Rashaad Penny to create a potentially formidable 1-2 punch in the offensive backfield. Plus, since a quarterback like Howell would almost certainly be behind Lock and Smith on the 2022 depth chart, Seattle felt its draft resources would be better-utilized on immediate contributors like Bryant and Walker instead of a QB3. If the team is still in need of a signal-caller next year, the 2023 draft offers more intriguing quarterback talent than the 2022 draft did.

That is not to say, of course, that another QB addition is off the table. Although Carroll said he does not believe the Seahawks will trade for a passer (like well-documented trade candidates Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo), injuries could always change that stance. And if Mayfield and/or Garoppolo should be released by their current clubs and become free agents, Seattle could be interested at that point.

The team is also rostering Jacob Eason and rookie UDFA Levi Lewis at the moment.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/6/22

Here are the latest draft pick signings:

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears 

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

  • DB Tariq Woolen (fifth round, Texas-San Antonio)
  • LB Tyreke Smith (fifth round, Ohio State)
  • WR Bo Melton (seventh round, Rutgers)
  • WR Dareke Young (seventh round, Lenoir-Rhyne)

Washington Commanders

Panthers Still Open To Veteran QB Addition

Although the Panthers came away with a Day 2 quarterback in this draft (Matt Corral), third-round picks do not necessarily block teams from further investments at this position. The team will continue to look into the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Baker Mayfield and now Nick Foles,’s Albert Breer notes.

GM Scott Fitterer said post-draft the team would go with its current group — one headlined by Sam Darnold and Corral — but Garoppolo or Mayfield would provide an upgrade. The Panthers and Browns had discussed Mayfield ahead of last week’s second round but could not determine how to divvy up the since-replaced QB’s fifth-year option salary ($18.9MM). Darnold is already attached to that sum, which would make Carolina eating all of Mayfield’s option price a non-starter. As such, Mayfield is in limbo.

This marks the second Garoppolo connection to form in the past few days, with the Texans also believed to have the longtime 49ers starter on their radar. Houston did not draft a quarterback last week. Few Garoppolo connections emerged this offseason, with the 49ers’ high asking price limiting teams’ interest. The eight-year veteran’s shoulder surgery provided a roadblock as well.

Foles, 33, languished on the Bears’ bench for most of last season. The former Super Bowl MVP also lost his starting job in both 2019 (to Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville) and ’20 (to Mitchell Trubisky, after having taken it from the incumbent earlier that year). Last season, Andy Dalton and Justin Fields ran Chicago’s offense in all but one game — a Foles-directed win in Seattle — and the Bears finally cut bait after the draft.

Corral became a Panther after the team traded into the third round, giving up its 2023 third-rounder to do so, but the team might have had its eye on a different QB. The Panthers had a deal on the table to trade back into Round 2, when Corral, Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder were on the board amid their Friday-night freefalls.

I had the card in my hand, and [owner David Tepper] looks at me and says, ‘What do you want to do?’” Fitterer said, via Breer. “And we both just kind of took a moment, and we looked at the board, and we decided the right thing to do was to be patient. Let’s not overpay. Let’s be smart about this. Let’s not dig ourselves in a hole for next year. Let’s inch back on trading with these quarterbacks.”

The Falcons and Titans took Ridder and Willis, respectively, and Breer adds the Panthers would have been fine going with Sam Howell instead of Corral. They decided on the Ole Miss product, and the in-state product fell all the way to Washington atop Round 5.