As Ron Rivera enters his third year as Supreme Commander of Washington’s football operations, his seat is heating up. A failed gamble that Dwayne Haskins was an NFL quarterback in Rivera’s first season, combined with a failure to groom a longer term option behind the starter in his second, have left the culture-changing coach in a difficult position.
In the 2022 offseason, Rivera appears to be left with no choice other than move a significant share of his chips onto the table, either grabbing a rookie QB in the draft, or expending substantial trade capital in the hopes that one of the mid-level veteran QBs that might be on the market can carry him to his first winning record in 5 seasons.
Despite Rivera’s increasingly pressing situation, his is probably not the most dire in the league. In this piece, we’ll look at other NFL execs and coaches whose situation is more urgent, and explore ways that the Washington Rouge Commandants could potentially take advantage of those circumstances this offseason.
The Cleveland Browns
Like Ron Rivera, Kevin Stefanski began as head coach for his current team in 2020. Unlike Rivera, Stefanski had playoff success in his first season. With expectations high going into 2021, the Browns, behind an injured and underperforming Baker Mayfield sputtered out, finishing 8-9 and out of the playoffs in one of the weakest AFC Norths in recent memory.
Former number one overall pick, Baker Mayfield, enters his 5th year option with the Browns, and the team has an important decision to make: Do you continue to roll with Baker, who has won more than 6 games in only one of his four seasons, or do you hit the reset button at QB, while your roster is still fairly young and hope you can improve on Baker.
For the purposes of this piece, I’m going to assume the Browns are prepared to move on. With the 13th pick in the 2022 draft, the Browns are only two slots behind Washington, but with top QBs a precious commodity, even those two slots matter. Washington is uniquely situated to have a thorough understanding of Baker’s ceiling and limitations, given that its QB coach, Ken Zampese, worked with Mayfield when he entered the NFL:
With Zampese as the quarterbacks coach, Mayfield was standing strong in the pocket and delivering throws all over the field. He was not missing high on a lot of throws, and he was also getting throws over the linemen at the line of scrimmage.
Proposal: If Zampese thinks Mayfield is underperforming with the Browns, and that he could resurrect his career, Washington offers #11 to Cleveland for Mayfield and #13 straight up.
The once formidable Seahawks are now a shadow of their former selves, in many ways an object lesson in the senescence cycle of an NFL team once its stars become too expensive to retain, and it’s traded away much of its most potent draft capital.
In 2021, the Seahawks found themselves 7-10 in a division where its three arch-rivals all made the playoffs and appear to be on the ascent. While it will probably be difficult for the 70-year old Pete Carroll to acknowledge it, the team is badly in need of a re-build.
In 2022, the Seahawks are without a first round pick, having sent theirs to the Jets in 2020 for a trade involving Jamal Adams. Recognizing the desperate situation that the Seahawks are in, they would very likely have several buyers, including, potentially, the Giants - who are probably in the best position to satisfy them - if they are willing to part with Wilson. Wilson is under contract through 2023 at an average cost of around $36M per year.
Proposal: Washington, non-QB roster-wise, appears to be in a much better situation than Seattle. Washington offers #11 and its 2023 first round pick to the Seahawks for Wilson, assuming Wilson is willing to waive his no trade clause (he’s said he would do it for the NYG, Saints, and Broncos).
Perhaps the group in the most dire situation at this point is the management team of the Indianapolis Colts, led by Chris Ballard and Frank Reich. Ballard, who has been GM of the Colts since 2017, has done a ton of things right. He’s drafted well, he’s been patient, and he’s avoided going nuts in free agency.
Having constructed a team that made the playoffs with Philip Rivers at the helm in 2020, Ballard and Reich rolled the dice on trading for Carson Wentz as the final piece last offseason. That trade ended up costing them a 2021 third round pick and their 2022 first round pick, and despite a strong team around him, Wentz - even with Reich’s guiding hand - doesn’t look like the QB to take the Colts to the promised land.
I’ve said before that I think the Colts growth position is about a year or two ahead of Washington, and I still think that’s accurate. Well drafted players are now hitting their second contracts and beginning to chew up cap space. The Colts need a plan at QB now, and they have almost no draft capital to acquire one in a trade. What they do have is an abundance of young talent.
Proposal: Washington sends #11 to Indianapolis for Darius Leonard, filling a massive hole in the middle of its linebacking corps. Leonard is currently under contract through 2026 at an average annual value of around $20M per year.
The offseason is now upon us and it’s time for the front office to show us their stuff. Let me know what you think about these proposals in the comments.
Which of these options would you most prefer Washington pursue?
This poll is closed
Mayfield from the Browns.
Wilson from the Seahawks
Leonard from the Colts
They’re all terrible.