Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera made clear Carson Wentz is his “QB1,” but that won’t stop the Burgundy and Gold from evaluating quarterbacks ahead of April’s NFL draft.
The Commanders sent a contingent of executives and coaches to attend Kenny Pickett’s Pro Day on Monday at the University of Pittsburgh — a group that also plans to attend Malik Willis’ Pro Day at Liberty on Tuesday. A number of top-rated quarterbacks have their Pro Day this week, including Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.
All four quarterbacks could go in the first round, though Pickett and Willis are widely seen as the top two passers in this year’s class. Washington holds the 11th overall pick.
A source said the Commanders sent vice president of player personnel Marty Hurney, offensive coordinator Scott Turner, quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and director of college personnel Tim Gribble for Pittsburgh’s Pro Day.
For the Commanders, the quarterback scouting is likely more due diligence than anything else. Rivera told reporters last week that Wentz’s acquisition doesn’t “preclude” Washington from drafting a quarterback, but he later told The Athletic: “Why draft (a quarterback at 11) unless there’s a guy you’re in love with?” Rivera has said he hopes Wentz proves to be the Commanders’ long-term solution at the position.
It makes sense why Washington would still look at this year’s crop of quarterbacks, too. On the chance that someone falls to the second round, then maybe the upside would be worth using the 47th pick on a passer. Washington only has two quarterbacks on the roster — Wentz and Taylor Heinicke — so the team will likely need to add another arm or two at some point. Backups Kyle Allen and Garrett Gilbert left this offseason for the Houston Texans and Las Vegas Raiders, respectively.
Studying quarterbacks could also be useful in case a team tries to acquire the 11th pick to grab one of them. Last year, the Chicago Bears traded up from No. 20 to take quarterback Justin Fields at No. 11. As part of the deal, the Giants received a haul of picks: No. 20, No. 164, a future first and fourth. If the Commanders do part with the pick, they have to know what exactly they’re giving up.
In total, nine first-round picks have already been traded this year because of past deals. The Giants, for instance, hold the seventh pick, originally owned by Chicago thanks to the Fields trade.
Most of the quarterback movement this offseason has come on the trade market. Besides Wentz to Washington, the Denver Broncos acquired Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson went to Cleveland and on Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts sent a third-rounder to Atlanta for former MVP Matt Ryan.
The teams still in the mix for a quarterback in the draft figure to include the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons. The Steelers signed Mitchell Trubisky in free agency to a two-year deal, though general manager Kevin Colbert has said Pittsburgh wants to have four quarterbacks heading into training camp. Right now, the Steelers only have three.
The Panthers, Falcons and Commanders reportedly had a total of 18 people on hand to watch Pickett.
Washington can get out of Wentz contract easily after the upcoming season, should it need to do so. Wentz’s salaries in 2023 and 2024 are not guaranteed, meaning Washington can cut him at no cost.
But the plan — what Washington is hoping for — is that Wentz is The Guy.
“I’d love to see this be a very long tenure,” Rivera said.