The Washington Commanders will start Taylor Heinicke at quarterback in Sunday’s regular-season finale vs. the Dallas Cowboys, a move that all but signals the end of Carson Wentz’s tenure in Washington, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Rookie quarterback Sam Howell will finish the game, per sources.
The moves come one week after the Commanders gambled that Wentz’s return as the starter could spark an offense that had struggled to score. But that failed, as Cleveland beat Washington 24-10, and the Commanders managed only 260 yards — their third-lowest total of the season. Wentz threw for just 124 yards and was intercepted three times, and the Commanders (7-8-1) were eliminated from playoff contention. Dallas (12-4) can still clinch the NFC East with a win and a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wentz will be inactive in what almost assuredly will be his last game with Washington. He has two years left on his contract, but with no guaranteed money. The Commanders could cut him without any money counting towards their salary cap.
Washington traded two third-round picks to Indianapolis, and swapped second-round picks last spring, to acquire Wentz. The Commanders also absorbed a $28 million cap hit.
Wentz threw a combined seven touchdown passes in Washington’s first two games but struggled thereafter, with only four TD passes in his next five starts. The Commanders scored a combined 55 points in those first two games, but only 57 in the ensuing five.
Heinicke started nine games after Wentz broke his right ring finger on Oct. 13. Washington went 5-3-1 in those games. In the past two seasons, Washington has gone 12-11-1 when Heinicke starts and 2-7 under anyone else.
But Washington turned to Wentz last week because the offense had not scored more than 20 points in seven of the previous eight games. Most of that was due to red zone struggles; the Commanders ranked 13th in total yards during this stretch.
Washington also wants to see Howell, a fifth-round pick last spring who has yet to play. He was Heinicke’s backup for seven games before Wentz returned from his injury. Howell threw for 10,283 yards, 92 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in three seasons as a starter at North Carolina.
Howell is the only Washington quarterback on the active roster under contract for 2023.