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Should the Commanders be talking to Center Matt Paradis?

December street free agency

Carolina Panthers v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I’m thinking that there could be some benefit to looking at another potential Commanther — 33 year old Matt Paradis — in the wake of Tyler Larsen’s serious injury.

At the moment, the choices for the Washington coaching staff look a bit grim; they can roll with Nick Martin for the rest of the season, or they can try to use Wes Schweitzer at center. Both have played the position in 2022, and neither has really shined.

Washington was forced to use 4 different centers in 2021, and the same thing happened this season.

Depth chart & injuries

The clear depth entering the season was Chase Roullier as the #1 guy, with Tyler Larsen as his backup, but Larsen was on the PUP list. Because of that, when Roullier was injured at the end of the Week 2 game, Schweitzer was tapped as the starting Center for Week 3.

Unfortunately, Schweitzer suffered a concussion in that game (against the Eagles) that kept him out for 9 weeks. He only returned to the active roster this past Sunday against the Giants.

With few options, the coaching staff turned to Nick Martin, a 29-year-old player who was a 2nd round pick of the Texans in 2016, but who never really lived up to his draft status. Martin was a backup for the Raiders in 2021, and then was signed and released by the Saints this season. Washington signed him as a street free agent after Roullier’s injury. Martin played in Weeks 4 & 5, but returned to the sideline as soon as Tyler Larsen was healthy enough to play in Week 6.

I know that PFF is not a perfect resource, but it is one of the few resources available for comparing offensive linemen. Let me compare the centers on Washington’s depth chart with some PFF grades.

#1 Chase Roullier - 2021

Roullier had a good season, with offensive grades that mostly hovered in the 70s. He was generally graded better in run blocking than pass pro, but he earned solid grades in both most of the time.

#2 Tyler Larsen - 2022

Larsen’s PFF grades reflect his spot on the depth chart behind Roullier. Larsen is fairly consistent, but tends to grade from the mid-50s to mid-60s most weeks. While his run blocking grades look okay, I see a lot of red & yellow in the pass pro column.

Larsen’s overall grade of 58.2 for his 8 consecutive starts in 2022 is the 2nd lowest season grade of his career. In 5 out of 7 seasons, he has graded in the mid-60s.

#3 Wes Schweitzer

Schweitzer played Center twice in 2021 (Weeks 11 & 12), and once this year (Week 3). Here’s a summary of his PFF grades for those three games:

Schweitzer looks a bit like Larsen with respect to his grades, except that 2 out of 3 pass blocking grades are in the red. Anyone who watched the Week 3 game will remember that Schweitzer repeatedly snapped the ball at Carson Wentz’s knees. That’s also the game where the Commanders gave up 9 sacks if I remember correctly.

#4 Nick Martin

Martin’s grades just don’t look good overall for his 3 appearances at center for Washington. Only two of his 9 grades for 2022 are above 60, while 4 grades are lower than 48.

Looking at his Season Grades in the lower chart, there seems to be a pattern of steady dropoff after the 2019 season, which looks like his best. Martin signed a 3-year extension with Houston before the ‘19 season, but he was released following the 2020 season. You can see that he’s only played 163 snaps since his release from Houston two years ago.

There’s a reason why Martin was an available street free agent in late September, and why he is behind Schweitzer (who is a cross-trained guard) on the depth chart. I’m not sure this is the guy we want to be relying on as the Commanders try to put together a playoff push in the coming weeks.

Washington’s 6-1-1 record

A lot of people have noted that the Commanders have won with Taylor Heinicke behind center; some see causality there.

But Washington’s winning ways began with the game against the Bears in Week 6 when Carson Wentz was still starting. Heinicke took over a week later against the Packers.

Improved play by the defense has been cited as a key to the turnaround, but another factor has been more consistent offensive line play.

You know who returned to the starting lineup in Week 6?

Tyler Larsen did.

If we’re looking for causation, perhaps we should be looking at the Center position, where Washington was 1-1 with Chase Roullier, 0-1 with Wes Schweitzer, 0-2 with Nick Martin, and 6-1-1 with Tyler Larsen.

The loss of Larsen at this point in the season could spell the same kind of disaster that seemed to strike when we lost Logan Thomas and JD McKissic last season around this time.

December street free agency

Street free agents tend to be available after the start of the season for one of two reasons:

  • They haven’t really played at a high level recently, so there’s not much interest in signing them
  • They are returning from injury

Nick Martin is an example of the first type of street free agent. Washington grabbed him after he’d been released from the Saints practice squad.

Odell Beckham Jr. is an example of the second type. OBJ is doing his “tour” at the moment, shopping for a team to sign with. He’s available in December, not because he’s a bad player, but because he got injured in a ‘contract year’. Now that he’s presumably getting healthy, his services appear to be in high demand.

Matt Paradis

Matt Paradis was drafted in the 6th round by the Broncos in 2014. He played with them for 5 seasons before he entered free agency in 2019, when he was signed by the Carolina Panthers to a 3-year, $27m contract.

He started 16 games for the Panthers in 2019 and again in 2020.

Last season, he tore his ACL in Week 9, one week before Chase Young tore his.

As you can see from the tweet above, Paradis’ agent says he’s now healthy and ready to play.

It seems like it could be a good idea to give the ex-Panther a call.

Paradis 2021 PFF grades

If you’re willing to rely on PFF for an apples-to-apples comparison, Paradis’ 2021 season seems to be comparable to Larsen’s 2022 games. You can see that he was graded as a stud in Denver, and appears to have been graded more workmanlike for his 3 seasons in Carolina, but, based on last year’s grades, he appears to offer upside to Nick Martin.

Even if Paradis is signed as Martin’s backup while he gets back up to speed on the Rivera/Turner offense, that doesn’t seem like a bad plan.

Salary Cap

I imagine that Paradis would sign for vet minimum or something close to it, and he would count for only 5/17 of a season, so we’re talking a few hundred thousand dollars to get him on the roster.

Washington is probably one of the only teams in the NFL that could offer him a chance to compete for a starting role right now, and he knows the offensive coaching staff.

He appears to be a fast, cheap and easy solution to the Commanders’ problem at Center.


Should Ron Rivera try to sign Matt Paradis before the team returns to practice for the Week 15 game?

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