Taylor Heinicke

Falcons Plan To Keep Desmond Ridder As Starting QB

Desmond Ridder supplanted Marcus Mariota as the Falcons’ starting quarterback late last season, and although pronouncements about Week 1 roles in March should not be considered full-fledged endorsements, it is clear the 2022 third-round pick will enter offseason workouts ahead of Taylor Heinicke for the gig.

Arthur Smith said Tuesday, “The plan is to start Desmond.” GM Terry Fontenot had previously communicated this plan to Ridder, who made four starts as a rookie after being last year’s No. 74 overall pick. Arthur Blank stopped short of endorsing the Cincinnati product as the Falcons’ 2023 starter in February, but the team has taken a step forward here in the weeks since.

The Falcons subsequently signed Heinicke to a deal that topped the other backup QBs’ money — for average annual value — but the ex-Washington starter’s two-year, $14MM deal will not lead to an open competition with Ridder this offseason.

We’re very excited to have Taylor in the room, a guy with experience who has won games in this league,” Smith said, via AtlantaFalcons.com’s Scott Bair. “The chemistry in the quarterback room is important, as we expect Desmond to take the next step. But we also have a guy who can go in and win you football games and be ready to play.”

Heinicke has 25 regular-season starts under his belt, along with a playoff outing two years ago. He completed 64% of his passes with Washington, at 7.0 per toss, and went 12-12-1 as the team’s starter. The Commanders gave Carson Wentz his job back in December but installed Sam Howell as their starter for Week 18. The team expressed interest in re-signing Heinicke, but he said he chose a better Falcons offer, Josh Kendall of The Athletic tweets. Atlanta gave Heinicke $6.32MM fully guaranteed. Ridder completed 64% of his throws as well — at just 6.2 yards per attempt — but obviously does not have an extensive NFL sample size to judge.

Smith’s declaration affects Heinicke at present, and the former starter has said he is OK being Atlanta’s backup (Twitter link via Kendall). the Falcons have been connected to both Lamar Jackson and a potential first-round investment at the position. The team will meet with Florida’s Anthony Richardson soon and likely will host other top-flight QB prospects during the pre-draft process. The Falcons have not drafted a quarterback in the first or second rounds since their Matt Ryan pick (No. 3 overall) in 2008. They have only drafted two (Ridder and 2013 seventh-round pick Sean Renfree) since the Ryan pick.

As Fontenot and Smith go into Year 3 in charge, signing off on a Ridder-Heinicke QB depth chart when Jackson is available will likely not go over well with some Falcons fans. But the Falcons have not been connected to the disgruntled Ravens superstar, who is aiming for either a fully guaranteed contract or a deal that enters the Deshaun Watson guarantee neighborhood ($230MM). The Falcons were believed to have finished second for Watson last year; the guarantee led to Blank’s team standing down.

Being prepared to trade three first-round picks and change for Watson and then passing on Jackson altogether would certainly make for an interesting path, but as of Tuesday, that is the organization’s plan. Arriving just after the Browns pried Watson from the Falcons’ grasp, Ridder is now the NFC South team’s centerpiece player.

Falcons To Sign QB Taylor Heinicke

Mar 18: We now have specifics on the deal, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. Heinicke’s new contract is, specifically, a two-year, $14MM deal with $6.32MM guaranteed, including a $4MM signing bonus, his 2023 base salary of $1.32MM, and his 2023 roster bonus of $1MM. He’s due a 2024 roster bonus of $1.32MM on the fifth league day of the 2024 season. He’ll also receive a per game active bonus of $40,000 for a potential season total of $680,000. Lastly, the deal has up to $3MM in playoff and playing time incentives each year that could push the contract to that maximum $20MM value.

Mar 14: The Falcons have been public about their intentions of adding depth at the quarterback position, and they are acting on it. Atlanta has agreed to terms with Taylor Heinicke on a deal, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (on Twitter). His colleague Tom Pelissero tweets that it is a two-year contract worth up to $20MM.

This deal represents a homecoming for the 29-year-old. Heinicke is also making a return to the NFC South, after he spent one season with the Panthers in 2018. That campaign was preceded by a single year in Houston, but he his of course best known for his three years with the Commanders. That span included 24 starts, and has earned him a pact carrying significant value for what is expected to be a backup role.

Heinicke found himself atop Washington’s depth chart for the 2021 campaign, but the team supplanted him with Carson Wentz this past offseason. The trade which brought in the latter was their latest attempt to find a long-term solution at the position, but things didn’t go according to plan with Wentz from both a health and performance perspective. Heinicke did still see nine starts last year, posting a 5-3-1 record with a passer rating of 89.6.

The Commanders have made it clear that 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell will enter the 2023 season as their starting quarterback, albeit one who will likely have an experienced passer behind him on the depth chart. Heinicke could have continued in his backup role in the nation’s capital, but now he will head to Atlanta, the location of another interesting quarterback situation. Desmond Ridder, the team’s third-round pick last April, took on the starting role late in the regular season in place of veteran Marcus Mariota, who like Wentz, has since been released.

When speaking about Ridder last month, Falcons owner Arthur Blank and head coach Arthur Smith both praised his performance across his four games of action. Notably, they declined to endorse him as the starter moving forward, adding that competition would be brought in. Signing Heinicke will accomplish that goal, and give the team a consistent veteran option if Ridder fails to take a step forward in his second season.

The Falcons were long named as a potential Lamar Jackson suitor, either through an offer sheet or a tag-and-trade. Not long after it became known that the Ravens were placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on the former MVP, however, Atlanta was reported to be one of several teams which will not be pursuing him. That will leave them with Ridder, and now Heinicke, occupying the top two spots on their QB depth chart.

Commanders To Sign QB Jacoby Brissett

Although the Commanders have continued to talk up Sam Howell as a live option to start in 2023, they will bring in veteran competition. Jacoby Brissett is expected to sign with Washington, Dianna Russini of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).

This will be Brissett’s fourth stop over the past four seasons. The two-time Andrew Luck replacement starter spent 2020 with the Colts, 2021 with the Dolphins and 2022 with the Browns. With Howell having played in one NFL game, Brissett stands to have a good opportunity to make starts in 2023.

Brissett, 30, is signing another one-year deal, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala (on Twitter). He will earn $8MM guaranteed, with ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler adding the contract can max out at $10MM (Twitter link).

The nomadic QB agreed to one-year pacts with both the Dolphins and Browns previously. The Commanders were interested in keeping Taylor Heinicke, per John Keim of ESPN.com, but they had Brissett just below their former backup on their offseason QB hierarchy (Twitter link). Heinicke signed a two-year, $14MM deal with the Falcons, where he will land in a similar situation to Brissett’s.

Brissett outplayed Deshaun Watson during the QBs’ time together on Cleveland’s roster. Bouncing back after not showing much in Miami, Brissett finished his 11-game season eighth in QBR. He threw 12 touchdown passes, six interceptions and averaged a career-high 7.1 yards per attempt. While the Browns only went 4-7 in Brissett’s starts, he attracted interest during his stay as Watson’s suspension gatekeeper. Over the course of his career, Brissett has made 48 starts.

Heinicke, Brissett and Baker Mayfield will step into stopgap arrangements. Considering Howell’s low draft pedigree (Round 5) and inexperience, Brissett might have stepped into the best situation of the three. The Commanders hired longtime Andy Reid right-hand man Eric Bieniemy as OC and return an intriguing wide receiver setup — Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel — to go along with a Brian RobinsonAntonio Gibson backfield tandem.

After aggressively pursuing big-name quarterbacks in 2022, the Commanders have only been connected to Howell and a low-cost veteran. A Brissett-Howell competition may be how Washington proceeds this year. The Commanders hold the No. 16 overall pick in the draft; it is a good bet the top four QB prospects will be off the board by then. Ron Rivera‘s comments have also not pointed to the team considering another rookie addition.

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 ESPN.com 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 To Start QB Carson Wentz In Week 17

As the Commanders attempt to turn their bounce-back stretch into a playoff berth, they will move back to their original starting quarterback. The team confirmed Carson Wentz will start against the Browns in Week 17.

Wentz has not started since going down with a broken finger nearly three months ago, and the team rallied behind Taylor Heinicke to reach this point. But as the Commanders try to become the rare team to go from 1-4 into the playoffs, it will be the QB acquired in March in charge of pushing this process past the finish line.

Wentz, who will turn 30 on Friday, is in Washington because of how poorly his finish to the 2021 season went. After contracting COVID-19, the quarterback who fetched first- and third-round picks in 2021’s Eagles-Colts trade performed poorly in his final two games as a Colt. This led to the team blowing a win-and-in opportunity as a two-touchdown favorite in Jacksonville. Jim Irsay promptly ordered his decision-makers to move on from Wentz, despite the high price the Colts paid, after one season.

The Commanders received criticism for giving up what they did for Wentz — a 2022 third-rounder, a conditional 2023 Day 2 pick and a second-round pick swap this year — and not adjusting his contract. But the former No. 2 overall pick’s injury this season will prevent Washington from sending a 2023 second-rounder to Indianapolis. The conditional choice will be a third, as Wentz will not hit the 70% snap barrier — one he did surpass as a Colt to give the Eagles a 2022 first — to move the pick into Round 2. The Commanders had Wentz on an eight-man list of possible QB upgrades this offseason, and while they made a monster offer for Russell Wilson and pursued other targets as well, the team liked Wentz’s 6-foot-5 frame and arm strength.

Despite the team activating Wentz from IR weeks ago, he returned to action as Heinicke’s backup. He spent the past two games as the Commanders’ QB2, being benched by an NFC East team for the second time in three seasons. The Eagles sat him for Jalen Hurts in December 2020, leading the 2017 near-MVP out of Philadelphia. Wentz rebounded to a degree in Indianapolis, finishing ninth in QBR despite facing steady criticism for his up-and-down play, but was quickly sent to Washington this offseason.

Prior to Wentz going down in October this year, he submitted an uneven start that had the Commanders at 2-4. But he did throw 10 touchdown passes in five games to start his Commanders season. And he fared well upon relieving Heinicke against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense. Wentz completed 12 of 16 passes 123 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers. Wentz will also have a chance to play with a healthy Brian Robinson and Jahan Dotson; the two promising rookies did not share the field during Wentz’s previous batch of starts.

Washington, which has not won a game since Week 12, is 7-7-1 and controls its own playoff destiny. The team faces Cleveland and Dallas to close the season. The franchise has not secured two playoff berths in a three-season span since Joe Gibbs‘ second go-round with the team, which led to wild-card spots in 2005 and ’07. The Commanders will count on Wentz — their sixth Week 1 starting quarterback in the past six years — to lead the way back to the postseason.

This will make for another high-pressure spot for Wentz, whose through-2024 contract includes no guarantees beyond this season. The Commanders can save $26.2MM in 2023 by releasing him. That would trigger another quarterback pursuit for a franchise that has not enjoyed stability here since the Kirk Cousins franchise tag saga. Heinicke is on track for unrestricted free agency in March.

Commanders To Stick With QB Taylor Heinicke

After sitting through the first six weeks of the season, Taylor Heinicke has quarterbacked the Commanders back into the playoff race. The 29-year-old undrafted quarterback out of Old Dominion has cashed in on his second-chance opportunity in the NFL and appears to be unready to give it up yet, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post.

Despite proving himself as a serviceable starting quarterback last year, when he took over for an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick to start nearly the entire rest of the year and lead Washington to a 7-8 record in games he started, the Commanders went out and traded with the Colts in order to acquire Carson Wentz. When Wentz was placed on injured reserve with a fractured ring finger on his throwing hand, the Commanders had a measly 2-4 record. Heinicke came in without skipping a beat and immediately helped Washington to win five of its next six games.

Enroute to a 5-2-1 record as a starter, Heinicke has continued his brand of consistent play. Unfortunately for the Commanders, in order to achieve Heinicke’s brand of consistency, they tend to sacrifice explosiveness and excitement. And when the team finds itself behind, like it did last night, a lack of explosive play and an over-dependency on the running game is not an ideal recipe for a comeback.

When the Commanders failed to make a comeback in last night’s loss to the Giants, ceding crucial ground in the NFC Wild Card race, head coach Ron Rivera immediately brought Heinicke into his office, still in his stained jersey and pads. The content of the conversation was reportedly candid and sobering. Rivera recalled to the media part of the conversation:

“My conversation with Taylor last night, it was: ‘Hey, look, we had some really good moments during this game. We did some really good things, but we’ve got to build on it now. We’ve got to finish. We truthfully got to finish in the red zone.'”

This has been an echo all season in the Commanders’ facilities. Missed opportunities due to poor execution continuously lead to situations in the redzone where instead of coming away with seven points, the team has to send the kicking unit onto the field or, even worse, turns the ball over for no points. This was emphasized last night when Washington only converted one of three redzone attempts into a touchdown.

Despite the tough conversation, Rivera reaffirmed to the media that he wants to move forward with Heinicke as the starter and Wentz as the backup. “I think that the biggest thing more than anything else is sticking with Taylor and what we’re trying to establish,” Rivera said. He admitted that the long-term future at quarterback is something that he has to consider at some point, but, for now, he will stay with the hot hand and try to keep the momentum that the team earned after their 2-4 start.

The road to the playoffs will certainly not be easy. The schedule for Washington wraps up with a road trip to a surging 49ers squad on Christmas Eve, followed with a matchup against the Deshaun Watson-led Browns, and finishing with a division matchup against the Cowboys.

Rivera plans to face that daunting stretch by sticking with the team’s recent identity of consistent quarterback play backed with a run-first attack. He just needs Heinicke to help increase his team’s efficiency in the redzone and not leave points on the board. Rivera put his trust in Heinicke, saying, “As long as I’m open with him and he understands where I’m coming from, I think we both get the messaging.”

Taylor Heinicke To Remain Commanders’ Starting QB

NOVEMBER 20: Heinicke will remain the Commanders’ starting quarterback unless he starts to struggle and Washington’s offense begins to regress, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. John Keim of ESPN.com subsequently confirmed the report, and while Wentz is likely to be activated off of IR soon, he will return to the roster as a backup. Wentz has been informed of the decision, per Keim.

This decision stands to impact the compensation that the Colts will receive for the trade that sent Wentz from Indianapolis to the Commanders this offseason. If Wentz does not play at least 70% of the Commanders’ offensive snaps in 2022 — a scenario that is looking increasingly likely — the Colts will receive a 2023 third-round choice from Washington instead of a second-rounder.

NOVEMBER 16: Carson Wentz is just about ready to return to practice, but for the time being, the Commanders will be rolling with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback. Head coach Ron Rivera told reporters that Heinicke will start this Sunday against the Texans, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post (on Twitter).

Rivera doesn’t seem to be committing to Heinicke as his starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. While Wentz has been cleared to throw, he’s yet to be designated to return to practice. If the Commanders sincerely wanted Wentz under center going forward, they’d surely give him a full week of practice before tossing him back into the fire.

While the Commanders don’t have to make a decision about their QB1 with Wentz technically still on the shelf, some around the NFL believe Washington is preparing to give Heinicke the reigns for the rest of the 2022 season. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes that “many around the league” expect the team to stick with Heinicke as their starting QB, “at least for the short term.” One source told Fowler that the young players on the Commanders “gravitate” towards Heinicke because of his “fiery personality and his no-fear attitude,” and Rivera is cognizant of the locker room support that the quarterback possesses. On the flip side, the organization also values Wentz’s “skill and toughness,” and it doesn’t sound like there would be any mutiny if the staff decides to roll with the veteran.

Heinicke has certainly impressed under center. In his four starts, he’s guided the Commanders to a 3-1 record, including a victory over the previously undefeated Eagles. He’s completed 62 percent of his pass attempts for 840 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions, and he’s added another 60 yards and a score on the ground. This performance comes on the heels of a 2021 campaign that saw him go 7-8 as a starter while tossing 20 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions.

Wentz was acquired by Washington this past offseason and started each of the first six games before suffering a hand injury that landed him on IR. Washington was 2-4 in Wentz’s six appearances, with the 29-year-old completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,489 yards, 10 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

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).

Taylor Heinicke To Remain Commanders’ Backup QB

The Commanders did a great deal of homework on this year’s top collegiate quarterbacks, and they came away from those evaluations most intrigued by UNC passer Sam Howell, as Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post writes. Washington ultimately selected Howell with the first pick of the fifth round of the 2022 draft, making him the sixth signal-caller to hear his name called.

Though his draft-day slide was doubtlessly disappointing, the Commanders certainly present an intriguing opportunity for Howell. The club acquired Carson Wentz from the Colts in March, and while Wentz will serve as the starting quarterback in 2022, he can be released after the season with no dead money ramifications. Current QB2 Taylor Heinicke, meanwhile, will be out of contract at the end of the upcoming campaign.

As Jhabvala notes, head coach Ron Rivera was clear during his postdraft press conference that Heinicke would remain the backup. So Howell will have the chance to develop as the No. 3 signal-caller, and both he and Rivera appear excited by that prospect.

“To have Sam fall to us was something we had to jump on,” Rivera said. “We had a very good grade on him — he was, at that point, the highest guy left on our board. … We feel this was a home run for us.”

Howell said, “I’ve had a good amount of communication with [the Commanders], but I just kind of knew all along. I kind of had a couple teams that I was interested in. Just after that combine interview and talking to Coach Rivera, I knew this was a place I definitely wanted to be.”

Howell’s trademark deep ball should mesh well with OC Scott Turner‘s Air Coryell-based offense, and if he makes the necessary strides in 2022, he will enter 2023 with a real chance to at least serve as Washington’s backup QB, and perhaps a shot to compete for the starting gig.

Heinicke, who wound up starting 15 games for Washington in 2021 after a Week 1 injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick, completed 65% of his passes last season. However, he also threw for 20 TDs against 15 interceptions, a ratio that leaves much to be desired. He is certainly a competent backup if nothing else, and while he will serve as Wentz’s clipboard holder in 2022, his future with the Commanders was complicated by the Howell selection.