The Washington Commanders have found their man at quarterback — sort of. Now he just has to prove them right.
Commanders coach Ron Rivera said Sam Howell will enter their offseason workouts as their No. 1 quarterback — and that they won’t spend a lot to acquire a veteran, as they did last season with Carson Wentz.
“Going in, [Howell will] start as the No. 1 but it’s something he has to continue to earn and show us he deserves to be that guy,” said Rivera, speaking from the Super Bowl where he’ll be honored as the USAA Salute to Service Award winner for his work and support of the military.
Meanwhile, Washington has not decided if it will pick up the fifth-year option for defensive end Chase Young, citing in part his health. Young, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, missed the first 14 games this season — and the final eight in 2021 — because of a torn ACL and ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee.
Young would receive $17,452 million under the fifth-year option. The team has until early May to decide.
As for the quarterback position, Washington traded two third-round picks to Indianapolis for Wentz in 2022 while also picking up his $28 million hit on the salary cap. Three other quarterbacks that the Commanders inquired about last offseason — Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Las Vegas’ Derek Carr and San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo — are expected to be available.
Rivera said they will look at veteran quarterbacks and will consider others in the draft. However, each of those three quarterbacks mentioned would come with a hefty price tag.
“We don’t intend to overspend on capital, whether draft picks, players and money,” Rivera said.
Howell, a fifth-round pick last spring, started Washington’s regular season finale — a 26-6 win over Dallas. Howell completed 11-of-19 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for five times for 35 yards and one score.
Rivera said he liked Howell’s decision-making ability and his penchant for getting rid of the ball quickly.
“He has the ability to put the ball where it needed to be and he learned very quickly from his mistakes,” Rivera said.
Washington finished 8-8-1 and a game out of the playoffs.
Howell was the 33rd different quarterback to start a game for Washington since it last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. With Wentz expected to be cut this offseason, Washington will have a new quarterback to start the season for the seventh consecutive year. If it indeed is Howell, he’d follow Wentz (2022), Ryan Fitzpatrick (’21), Dwayne Haskins (’20), Case Keenum (’19), Alex Smith (’18) and Kirk Cousins (’17).
Howell was the eighth different quarterback to start in Rivera’s first three seasons. With a talented group of playmakers at receiver in Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson, Washington wants to shore up its offensive line to help Howell.
“Sometimes it’s about putting all those other pieces into place first and then getting the guy,” Rivera said. “I thought we showed we’re more than a serviceable team if we can get consistent play from that position. I don’t know if we need very, very, very dynamic play as much as we need dynamic play.”
Washington has interviewed six candidates for its vacant offensive coordinator position. Rivera is waiting to interview Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy after the Super Bowl.
Rivera also said he met recently with co-owners Dan and Tanya Snyder, who told him it was “business as usual” this offseason, despite the team being up for sale. Rivera also said the team has reached out to representatives for free agent defensive tackle Daron Payne, but have not yet discussed money.