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Veteran LB Anthony Hitchens could be signed today - should the Commanders be interested?

the 8-year vet was just released by Kansas City

Super Bowl Opening Night presented by BOLT24 Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

It’s generally accepted that the Washington Commanders need linebacker help — specifically, a capable middle linebacker — though our very own Mark Tyler is one of those who thinks we have the players we need on the roster right now.

But let’s imagine for a second that the coaches and front office want to bring in a veteran who can play the MIKE position to free up Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis to play the two outside positions.

Would you be interested in Anthony Hitchens?

The first strike against him is that he began his NFL career as a Cowboy, but he went there because he was drafted by Dallas in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. To his credit, he got out as fast as he could, going to play for the Chiefs when he became a free agent in 2018.

In Kansas City, Hitchens was an instant starter, playing 1,078 snaps at inside linebacker in the Chiefs 3-4 defensive scheme in 2018. He averaged about 50 defensive snaps per game in 2019 and 2020, but the writing was on the wall when the Chiefs drafted Nick Bolton in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. With Willie Gay, the team’s 2020 2nd round pick, due back from IR in time for the ‘22 season, the veteran Hitchens looked expensive and expendable.

On a team that needs to find cap space, the Chiefs were able to free up about $8.4m by releasing Hitchens, which they did today.

Having been released, Hitchens gets a jump start on free agency. He can sign with any team in the NFL right away; he doesn’t have to wait until 16 March.

Is Hitchens the guy that the Commanders need?

Well, maybe.

He was praised by the Kansas City coaches for helping the rookie Bolton to develop, even though it was clear that it would mean Hitchens would lose his job. Pete Sweeny of Arrowhead Pride wrote, “To Hitchens’ credit, despite knowing that Bolton’s progress would likely mean the end of his Chiefs’ tenure, he worked diligently to prepare him and teach him the role.”

The 29 year old Hitchens signed with the Chiefs in 2018 after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. During his four-year tenure with the Chiefs, the linebacker compiled 381 tackles (217 solo), including 17 tackles for loss. He also added 2.0 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

BRONCOS VS CHIEFS
Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco #5 has the ball knocked away by Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens #53 and the fumble is recovered and run into the end zone by Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Reggie Ragland #59 in the second quarter of the game between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado
Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The man whom Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo called the “glue” of the Chiefs’ defense, Hitchens helped lead the Chiefs to four straight AFC title games, two AFC championships and the Super Bowl LIV title.

Hitchens could be the kind of leader both on the field and in the locker room that could make a difference for 2nd year linebacker Jamin Davis, who struggled in his rookie season, and his presence on the field could free up Cole Holcomb to play more effectively in the role of a strong side linebacker.

Hitchens isn’t a Pro Bowl player — he was expendable in part because of his salary, but also because he couldn’t beat out Gay and Bolton for a starting role in the Kansas City defense. PFF’s season grade of 52.2 for 2021 makes Hitchens the 65th ranked linebacker (min 200 snaps).

Basically, he is a competent veteran linebacker who has been part of a lot of winning teams. As a Dallas Cowboy, he was part of three winning seasons — 12-4, 13-3, and 9-7. In Kansas City, he has been part of three 12-win seasons and a 13-win season, and those Chiefs teams were 2-2 in AFC Championship games, and 1-1 in super bowls. Hitchens presumably knows a lot about winning in the NFL.

Is the combination of a winning history (with one SB ring), experience in developing younger players, and decent on-field skills, including solid tackling enough to make Hitchens a guy that Ron Rivera should be on the phone with on Wednesday morning?

Hitchens’ contract with the Chiefs was for $9m per season. At this point, I don’t think he’d get that much again, though he’s also not going to be available for Jon Bostic money ($2.5m per year) either. At a guess, I suspect that Washington would need an offer in the neighborhood of 3 years, $24m to get his attention, though that may be too high or too low, depending on how Hitchens sees himself and his career.

The advantage for Hitchens in signing with the Commanders would be the opportunity to get on the field for 800 snaps or more each season. As with the Chiefs, Anthony Hitchens would be a backup on a lot of NFL teams. In Washington, he could possibly have another couple of years as a starter.

If he sees the Commanders as a team on the rise, that might be enough to convince him to sign on as Ron Rivera’s veteran leader for the linebacker group.

Poll

Should the Commanders try to sign Anthony Hitchens this week?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Yes, anything up to $10m per year would be a good deal
    (63 votes)
  • 66%
    Yes, if it is a team friendly contract at the price of a low-end starter
    (755 votes)
  • 12%
    Only on a vet-miinimum contract
    (145 votes)
  • 15%
    No. This is not the right guy.
    (179 votes)
1142 votes total Vote Now