- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The dust has hardly settled on Dwayne Haskins’ short-lived tenure in Washington. But in a league defined by quarterback play, Washington once again finds itself without a quarterback of the future.

That was supposed to be Haskins, before the 2019 first-round selection began to impede his own progress as much as his results on the field underwhelmed.

He was fined $40,000 and stripped of his captaincy for partying without a mask following last week’s loss to Seattle. Haskins still started against the Carolina Panthers, but after three turnovers and little offensive production, Washington coach Ron Rivera benched Haskins — a presage for what was about to come.

Washington released Haskins on Monday. In his 16 games, Haskins threw 14 interceptions to his 12 touchdowns. He was drafted as a hometown hero out of Ohio State, but he departs as a bust.

In light of the move, though, it’s never too early to plan for what’s next.

Washington still has Alex Smith, a capable field general who can take care of the football when he’s healthy enough to be on the field. He’s still under contract through the 2022 campaign, theoretically giving the team time to develop a quarterback rather than throwing one into the action immediately. There’s also Kyle Allen, who’ll be a free agent this offseason but could conceivably return after his ankle injury.

That luxury of time could work in Washington’s favor, particularly with a draft class full of talent at the quarterback position. There are the obvious big names, such as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields.

But lower down the draft board, Washington could find value in the search for a franchise quarterback — a search that has seemed never-ending since Dan Snyder became owner, with 23 different starting quarterbacks in that 21-year span.

With a chance to secure a division title Sunday with a win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington’s draft position is fluid. But a mid-to-late first round selection can be expected, leaving room to trade up — going after some of the top-tier passers — or target more of a project.

There are numerous teams that might opt to draft a quarterback in the first round. But Washington could have an opportunity to select more surefire prospects such as Alabama’s Mac Jones or Florida’s Kyle Trask, or opt for a gamble with North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

Lance is an interesting prospect, but there are plenty of concerns attached to the dual-threat quarterback. With North Dakota State’s conference canceling its 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lance only played one exhibition game this season.

He led the Bison to an FCS title as a redshirt freshman in 2019, amassing 2,786 passing yards, a 66.9 completion percentage, 28 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and another 14 scores — mouth-watering outputs.

He comes from a college that produced Carson Wentz. But having started only 16 games against FCS competition, it remains to be seen how Lance’s skill set translates to the NFL level.

That’s the case for Trask and Jones, too, but both of those quarterbacks come from SEC programs. Jones has the benefit of a talented offensive line and skill position players galore with the Crimson Tide; the redshirt junior still led the country with a 76.5 completion percentage and threw 32 touchdowns to four interceptions. He averaged 11.4 yards per completion and has played in 37 games for Alabama.

And Trask is an intriguing option as well. The redshirt senior has played 27 games in his career, and he led the country with 4,125 passing yards and 43 touchdowns compared to five picks. Some knock Trask for his mobility, but the quarterback’s arm talent makes up for a lot.

Even further down the draft board, there could be options. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder and Southern Methodist’s Shane Buechele, for instance, will likely slip into subsequent rounds despite impressive seasons. But the answer to Washington’s quarterback situation doesn’t necessarily need to come from the draft, either.

Cam Newton’s largely ineffective season with the Patriots means a potential reunion with Newton’s former coach Ron Rivera would be possible in Washington. If the Jets opt to draft a quarterback — with Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson likely — Sam Darnold might be available via a trade. The Lions’ Matthew Stafford could also be an option from the trade market.

The possibilities are almost endless at this point, without a clear idea of what Washington’s draft position will be. Yet in a league in which quarterback play reigns supreme, the team will need some path forward at the position after another quarterback of the future slipped into the past.

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