- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2022

For those paying attention, Super Bowl week wasn’t kind to the Washington Commanders.

Not including the NFL clashing with the Commanders over sexual misconduct investigations, there were plenty of moments that might be discouraging for anyone hoping the team will land a significant upgrade at quarterback this offseason. 

Just look at what happened: Russell Wilson said in a radio interview he hoped to remain with the Seattle Seahawks. The NFL Network reported the Las Vegas Raiders plan to discuss a contract extension with Derek Carr. And Aaron Rodgers’ relationship with the Green Bay Packers is reportedly as good as it’s been in some time.

Of course, things could change. Wilson, for instance, wouldn’t be the first player to pledge loyalty to a franchise, only to leave. 

But the news highlights the difficulties Washington could face in acquiring a splashy quarterback — and how the number of appealing options could run out quickly if Wilson, Carr and Rodgers aren’t available.

If those three truly are off the market, the options left aren’t the most enticing. And that’s even before factoring in all the other handful of teams that figure to be desperate for a new quarterback this spring.  

San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo is widely expected to be traded as the 49ers have first-rounder Trey Lance waiting in the wings. But Garoppolo, with his inconsistency and injury history, is a polarizing option. He very likely would be an upgrade over starter Taylor Heinicke, but would he be an inspiring choice? Judging by recent chatter, probably not.

When an anonymous NFL executive theorized to The Athletic that the Commanders could “justify” trading the No. 11 pick to the 49ers for Garoppolo, fans on social media almost revolted on the spot. “Trading the 11th pick for James Garoppolo would be a fireable offense,” one fan podcast tweeted. 

If not Garoppolo, a recent report from ESPN suggested that Indianapolis’ Carson Wentz could be had. The network reported Wentz’s future with the Colts “looks bleak” and said the quarterback would probably be traded or released by March 18, the deadline for his $22 million salary to become guaranteed. 

Washington fans are more than familiar with Wentz, having watched him play for the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. But the former No. 2 pick is far removed from the days of being regarded as one of the game’s best young quarterbacks. And last year with the Colts, Wentz and Indianapolis shockingly lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a must-win Week 18 matchup to miss the playoffs. 

In Indianapolis, Wentz had a strong support system in his former coach (Frank Reich), a dominant running back (Jonathan Taylor) and a stout offensive line. If he couldn’t make those circumstances work, then one has to wonder if he could truly salvage his career with the Commanders.

How about a reunion with Kirk Cousins? It seems unlikely since Minnesota just hired Kevin O’Connell, Cousins’ former quarterbacks coach in Washington who was reportedly “high” on the quarterback throughout the interview process.

Outside the trade market, Washington could take two other paths: the draft and free agency. This month’s Senior Bowl didn’t do much to boost the reputation of this year’s less-than-stellar quarterback class. And in free agency, there are veterans such as Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston or reclamation projects like Mitch Trubisky and Marcus Mariotta. Either way, none of those names carries much excitement. 

So what else can Washington do? Houston’s Deshaun Watson is out there, but there’s plenty of uncertainty over his situation as 22 women have filed civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct. And besides, the Commanders are perhaps the last franchise that should pursue the 26-year-old given that more than 40 women said they were sexually harassed while working for the team. Former employee Tiffani Johnston, too, recently accused owner Dan Snyder of making an unwanted sexual advance.  

Should Washington decide Watson would be worth the risk, he would still have to choose them. The Texans quarterback has a no-trade clause, so he has the say over his next destination. And on Wednesday, ESPN reported that the teams that most interest Watson are the Vikings and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Meanwhile, Kyler Murray’s situation with the Arizona Cardinals bears monitoring. Murray caused a firestorm this month when he deleted every reference to the Cardinals from his Instagram and then reports emerged over the weekend that the Cardinals want the quarterback to become a better leader. Murray responded on Twitter, posting an old picture of him in a Cardinals uniform with a caption that said, “All of this nonsense is not what I’m about, never has been, never will be.”

If the Cardinals and Murray mutually decided they were done with each other, Murray would be exactly the type of quarterback Washington needs. The former No. 1 overall is still young — only 24 — and dynamic. 

But chances are, he’s not on the table. Just like a lot of other big names. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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