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A wishlist for Washington’s next General Manager

We’re only a couple of weeks away

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

While I’m a few days late for a Christmas piece, I’m completely spent on discussing just about anything else pertaining to this absolutely miserable season. But, I have some downtime, and I am cautiously hopeful, so I thought I’d pen a letter to the next General Manager - who will hopefully be announced in the next couple of weeks - outlining some moves that I’d like him to prioritize as he gets established in DC.

Will that new GM be the 49ers’ Adam Peters (pictured), the Ravens’ Joe Hortiz, the Eagles’ Alec Halaby, or someone else entirely? I don’t know. They’re all smart guys, from well-run organizations, and would instantly become the best option here in several decades. Here’s to all of them being aligned on the moves below.

Quarterback or Trade Back

Unless Washington really screws things up against the 49ers and Cowboys in the next couple of weeks, they’re likely to end up with a top three draft pick in 2024. I like to say Ron Rivera’s “original sin” in Washington was getting Dan Snyder to agree to give him full control over football operations and then deciding to stick with Dwayne Haskins when he had the #2 overall pick in the 2020.

It’s been repeated over and over, but it was well-established that the scouting talent within the organization before Ron arrived - and still in place when he came to town - had Haskins rated as a third round talent, but that they were forced to draft him in the first round according to the direction of the imperious imp.

Surely, that information was passed along to Rivera early in his tenure, nevertheless, he stuck with Haskins, and drafted Chase Young at #2. Less than four years later, Haskins washed out and met with a tragic end, and Young was traded away for peanuts to the 49ers. The next GM can’t make a similar miscalculation. How he handles the 2024 draft could easily be the most important decision of his career in DC.

Is Sam Howell the quarterback of the future in Washington? I honestly don’t know, and I’m glad my job doesn’t depend on making that decision. What I am fairly sure of, however, is that I wouldn’t want to hedge my new position on Howell being the answer.

With that said, even at #3, there’s no guarantee that one of the top quarterbacks - at this point, someone like Caleb Williams or Drake Maye - are going to be left on the board.

Questions still remain as to whether the Bears and Cardinals are prepared to move on from Justin Fields and Kyler Murray, respectively, but what’s not up for debate is whether they’d be willing to accept a warchest for either of those picks if they do decide to stick with their incumbent QBs. In any case, picks 1 and 2 will almost certainly be spent on quarterbacks.

And spending those high-end picks on QBs makes a ton of sense. The cap equivalent value is simply too high to merit spending on a less valuable position.

If the top QBs are off the board, and there’s not a third QB that the new GM believes is worth picking that high, I’d strongly encourage him to trade back to the tail end of the top 10 and pick up some additional draft capital. As an example, trading back from #3 to #10 could likely produce either a high 2024 second rounder or a 2025 first rounder in compensation, still leaving the team with the opportunity to potentially grab a QB like Jayden Daniels or one of the top tackle prospects AND giving the team another bite at the apple either later in the draft or next year.

At the end of the day, trading back in the 2022 draft was probably Ron’s shrewdest management move, even if it ultimately wasn’t enough to save him. It would be an astonishingly encouraging initial move from the new GM, if he pursues it.

Washington Commanders v New York Jets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Re-Sign a Couple of Key Vets

The season overall has been so dreadful it’s been pretty difficult to salvage much to like about it. That said, there are at least a few veterans on the roster who have continued to prove their worth, and who I think would make sense to keep around, at least for a couple of more years while talent is groomed behind them.

First up is Kendall Fuller, who has been the most reliable cornerback for the team for years. He’s not elite, but he is a starting-caliber CB in the league, and he’s done his job in workmanlike fashion consistently. PFF estimates his next deal will be in the 3-year, $40M range, which seems like the right ballpark to me, and would be good value, particularly if the team has Year 3 flexibility in the deal.

The QB play in Washington has been miserable in his time here, but - when healthy - Curtis Samuel has been the clear-cut WR2 on the team, racking up receptions and serving as a safety value for both Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell. I’d estimate Samuel’s next contract is in the $10-12M/yr range, and I’d be happy to see him signed for a couple of more years in DC, bolstering what could, eventually, be a very solid WR room with the right QB and OC.

Two other vets who have tended to get less attention, but who I would like to see kept around are Khaleke Hudson, who has shined as Washington’s other linebackers went down with injury, and Cornelius Lucas, who continues to be one of the most reliable swing tackles in the league. I’d expect that both could be retained for somewhere in the $6-7M range together.

Figure Out Who Might Be Worth Keeping on the Scouting Staff

Looking back over the last three drafts since the former chief talent evaluator left, there’s not much to like: Overdrafted players in nearly every first and second round, Day 2 & 3 OL picks sitting on the bench or practice squad, and even a trade up for a freaking long snapper. That said, there are at least a couple of promising Day 3 picks - both of whom appear to have been from the Northeast scouting region - who could be fixtures in Washington for the next several years.

The 5th round selection of safety Darrick Forrest, from Cincinnati, in 2021, has turned out to be a top three pick from that draft. Unfortunately, he’s spent most of 2023 injured, but in 2022, he appeared to be on the verge of a career breakout.

Similarly, the selection of Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez in the 6th round of the 2023 draft didn’t look like much for the first three quarters of his rookie season, but as other RBs went down with injury, CRod rose to the occasion - as anticipated by at least a couple of Hogs Haven commenters. At this point, it would be utterly unsurprising to see Rodriguez eclipse Brian Robinson for the RB1 position in 2024, assuming no other RBs are added to the mix in free agency or the draft.

Is there a diamond in the rough in the scouting room? If so, it would be good for the next GM to find him and lock him in before thoroughly cleaning house.

Play the Compensatory Pick Game Well

Earlier in the month, Josh Harris said he was interested in modeling his franchise after the Baltimore Ravens. And, who can blame him? The Ravens have been one of the most consistently successful franchises in the NFL for the past quarter century. They’ve been great for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that they’ve been masterful in taking advantage of league rules instituted in the wake of the shift to free agency.

As a gentle reminder, Baltimore has averaged about 1 additional draft pick per year - FOR 30 YEARS - more than Washington has, as a result of playing the compensatory pick game well.

Washington - read Josh Harris - wisely moved two future free agents, Montez Sweat and Chase Young, before the trade deadline this year, picking up potent 2024 draft capital. That leaves several, potential comp pick generating free agents who may leave this offseason, including:

  • Kamren Curl
  • Curtis Samuel
  • Kendall Fuller
  • Jacoby Brissett
  • Jeremy Reaves
  • Antonio Gibson
  • Efe Obada
  • James Smith-Williams
  • Casey Toohill

If the new general manager allows several of those players to move on, here’s hoping he’ll be judicious in signing new free agents who might cancel out those losses. It would be nice to go into the 2025 draft with a beefed up complement of picks courtesy of sound roster management, something which hasn’t happened nearly frequently enough in DC.

Conclusion

The next three months hold big changes in store for how Washington’s football franchise is run - likely the biggest changes in a generation - and they are a long time coming. By May, we should have a good sense of the next general manager’s plans for this team, including his new coaching staff and vision for how to build a team.

The hopefulness of that period stands in stark contrast to the misery of the 2023 season, where we simply learned several more lessons about how things shouldn’t be done in the NFL. Here’s to better times in the nation’s capital!

Poll

Which of these items tops your list for the next GM?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Getting the top 2024 pick right.
    (1435 votes)
  • 6%
    Re-signing solid free agents.
    (119 votes)
  • 3%
    Keeping the diamonds in the rough.
    (53 votes)
  • 1%
    Understanding the comp pick system.
    (33 votes)
  • 6%
    Something else
    (114 votes)
1754 votes total Vote Now