ASHBURN — When the Washington Commanders traded for Carson Wentz in March, the quarterback market was far from settled. Matt Ryan had yet to be dealt from the Falcons to the Colts. Baker Mayfield, now Carolina’s starter, was still with the Browns. And Jimmy Garoppolo seemed to be a surefire trade candidate, and he ended up staying put.
Martin Mayhew appears to have no regrets about how it shook out.
Speaking to reporters a day after rosters were trimmed to 53 players, the Washington Commanders general manager reaffirmed the team’s commitment to Wentz by telling reporters the 29-year-old provides stability at a position that the team has desperately needed. Wentz, he said, was the team’s “consensus” choice this offseason.
Mayhew’s backing of Wentz, while expected, reflects how the Commanders see the quarterback as their long-term option ahead of the Sept. 11 season opener against Jacksonville — even though Washington has an easy out if the former first-rounder doesn’t play well in 2022 since Wentz has no guaranteed money left on his contract after this year.
“I mean playing eight quarterbacks over the last two seasons — he has stabilized that position for us,” Mayhew said. “We’re excited about what he brings to the table in terms of his physical talent and also what he brings to the table in terms as a person, as a leader.”
Coach Ron Rivera agreed, telling reporters that the team is now focused on making sure the “rest of the pieces” are in place.
In March, the Commanders paid a considerable amount to acquire Wentz as the team’s brass agreed to take on the quarterback’s full $28.3 million cap hit — in addition to sending two third-rounders (one of which can become a second) to the Colts, a team eager to move on.
The price tag especially stood out in contrast to the moves that followed. The Colts acquired Ryan for just one third-round selection. The Browns, after trading for Deshaun Watson, agreed to eat $10.5 million of Mayfield’s salary to send him to the Panthers. The 49ers seemed more than ready to part with Garoppolo, but opted to keep him on a reduced salary after the market cooled.
Did the Commanders jump too soon?
“We really looked under every rock in that situation, and evaluate any possibility of a guy (that) might move,” Mayhew said. “We did our due diligence.”
Wentz, it can be argued, does provide a higher upside for Washington than the others. Who knows, for example, how much Ryan still has left at 37 years old? Mayfield can be viewed as a reclamation project after struggling the last few years. Garoppolo’s injury history, too, provides pause — and the veteran is coming off shoulder surgery this offseason.
Rivera has often said that no one will care about the cost it took to gain Wentz — if the move works out. And the coach has been pleased with Wentz’s development over training camp and the preseason, adding the quarterback has an “air of confidence” about him.
“You see him make some throws,” Rivera said. “You see some of the decisions he makes and you only make those, in my opinion, if you’re confident in what you’re doing. As he continues to progress and continues to get comfortable with what we’re gonna do.”
With Wentz seemingly not on their list of concerns, Rivera and Mayhew are focused on other aspects of the roster. On Wednesday, the Commanders added to their depth — claiming cornerbacks Tariq Castro-Fields and Rachad Wildgoose off waivers from the 49ers and the Jets. Both are younger players, with Castro-Fields, in particular, a sixth-round selection in April. To make room for the pair, Washington released linebackers David Mayo and De’Jon Harris.
The moves initially made Washington light at linebacker — with only three on the roster. But the Commanders soon addressed that area as they agreed to terms to bring back veteran linebacker Jon Bostic.
Bostic started in 35 games for Washington over the last three years, though his season last year was cut short as he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 4. The 31-year-old signed this summer with the New Orleans Saints, but was released Tuesday.
“One of the things that a lot of these guys share is really their youth,” Rivera said of the roster. “I think it’s a good young group of guys that are growing into their own. … This is a group of guys that if we continue to add the right pieces to it, you’ve got a core.”
“We’ve made a lot of moves in a positive direction,” Mayhew said.