While the focus this weekend will be in Indianapolis and the NFL’s annual Scouting Combine, the NFL’s free agency period is right around the corner, with the new league year starting on 15 March at 4pm.
The league’s oxymoronic “legal tampering period” officially starts on 13 March, though the unofficial start to all the illegal tampering will be when owners, GMs, coaches and agents arrive in Indianapolis this week. While the public portion of the Combine features young men running and jumping in colorful underwear, the real ‘business’ of the 2023 NFL season is kicking off away from the public eye as player agents gauge interest in their veteran soon-to-be free agents.
The Commanders have
14 a dozen pending unrestricted veteran free agents not named Daron Payne. I have divided them into 3 groups:
- Those who will be missed if they leave
- Those who won’t be missed if they leave
Commanders free agents who will be missed if they leave
QB Taylor Heinicke
The legend of Taylor Heinicke will live on longer than I will. There’s no one here who doesn’t know the well-documented tale of Heinicke’s career resurrection here in Washington. His pylon dive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the team’s last playoff game is the stuff of legends.
LB Cole Holcomb
Holcomb is the only player in this section of the list to have been drafted by Washington; he was one of the last players to ever be drafted by the Redskins, coming off the board in the 5th round of the 2019 draft. Holcomb was an immediate contributor as a rookie, but his on-field play and leadership have developed throughout his 4 years in Washington. Holcomb ended last season on IR with a foot injury, and he did not play beyond Week 7.
OL Wes Schweitzer
Schweitzer was drafted by the Falcons and spent his first 4 NFL seasons in Atlanta before coming to Washington in 2020. In three seasons, he has provided valuable depth and occasional starts for the team at both guard (his natural position) and center (which he plays on an ‘emergency’ basis). The 29-year-old provides the kind of depth and solid play at guard that is valuable for any NFL team.
DE Efe Obada
Obada has been around the NFL since 2015, but he played less than 260 snaps prior to the 2019 season. Since then, he has played 307 defensive snaps in 2019 and 415 in 2020 with the Panthers, 273 defensive snaps with the Bills in 2021, and 391 with the Commanders in 2022. Last year, Obada was a key part of the DE rotation that Washington relied on while Chase Young was out for an extended period due to injury.
CB Danny Johnson
Johnson has spent his entire career with Washington, having joined the team as a college undrafted free agent in 2022. Johnson has bounced between the practice squad and the regular roster, though he has been active for at least 11 games in 4 of his 5 NFL seasons. In 2020, he was used almost exclusively on special teams, where he was the team’s kick returner, but he played over 600 defensive snaps in 2021-22, and seemed to excel in his final 5 games of the ‘22 season when he played 100% of the defensive snaps in 3 of those games and accounted for 8 pass break ups, an interception, and a quarterback hit.
Commanders free agents who will not be missed if they leave
OL Trai Turner
Trai Turner was signed to compete with Wes Schweitzer at right guard after Brandon Scherff left in free agency last year. He seemed to be out-of-shape on arrival and was unable to practice for most of training camp due to injury. When he did play early in the season, he struggled. Turner’s play did improve somewhat as the season progressed, but I doubt whether anyone aside from Mrs. Turner and opposing defenses want to see him in a Washington uniform again in 2023.
LB Jon Bostic
When Bostic first arrived in Washington as a 27-year-old in 2019, he seemed to add some valuable veteran leadership to a struggling defense. As he got older and the surrounding cast got more talented, Bostic seemed to struggle more and more. By 2022, it was painful to watch him. I never expected to see him again in Washington following the 2021 season, but Ron Rivera the salary cap manager brought him back as part of the Commanders budget roster in the wake of the Carson Wentz acquisition. Let’s hope that no one in the Washington front office repeats that mistake in ‘23 or beyond.
LB Nate Gerry
Gerry was a depth signing in ‘22 when injuries bit deep into a very thin linebacker group. He played 82 snaps in 4 appearances for the Commanders. Let’s hope they were his last.
C Nick Martin
Nick Martin was signed in late September after the Commanders lost both Chase Roullier and Tyler Larsen to injury. He was behind Wes Schweitzer on the depth chart at the center position, and no one ever wanted to see him take the field in a game. An injury to Schweitzer while Larsen and Roullier were both unavailable forced the coaches to turn to Martin in Weeks 4 & 5, and again for part of a game in Week 13. In all, his 156 offensive snaps for the Commanders were at least 155 snaps too many.
OL Wes Martin
There was a lot of enthusiasm for Martin’s potential when he was selected by the Redskins in the 4th round of the 2019 draft. Very little of his perceived potential was ever realized, and Martin was a member of the NY Giants in 2021. Last season, he played only a single offensive snap and 18 special teams snaps. I think most fans would be crueler to Martin if he hadn’t been drafted by Washington, but the fact is that he has never developed into the NFL player that most people expected.
The ‘Tweeners are seeming good guys who have had a limited impact in their time as Washington players or who appear to be JAGs (Just a Guy) who could be replaced by someone younger, cheapter or better.
WR Cam Sims
It always feels like Cam Sims is a bigger part of the Washington offense than he turns out to be. Amazingly, he had just 8 catches for 89 yards in 2022, and in his 5-year NFL career (all in Washington) he has amassed just 57 receptions for 804 yards and 3 TDs. Still, he can boast a 62% catch percentage and a 14.1 yards-per-catch average. At 6’5” and 220 pounds, Sims seems to provide the big receiving option that Washington otherwise lacks, yet under two different coaching staffs, he has been largely ignored, with his best season being 2020, when he saw 48 targets and compiled 477 yards.
C Tyler Larsen
Larsen isn’t a bad center, but he’s noticeably inferior to starter Chase Roullier. The problem is that in his 2 seasons on Washington’s regular season roster, Larsen has had to play significant snaps in 11 games. Backups aren’t supposed to have to play that much. I actually like Larsen, but I think he’s likely to see his spot on the team put at risk as the coaches and front office prioritize the upgrading of the offensive line.
LB David Mayo
I think Mayo is a lot like Tyler Larsen in that he is a decent backup who has been asked to play too much. I’m inclined to think that Mayo will be back with the Commanders in 2023, and I’m okay with that as long as he primarily fills a role as a backup and special teams player on a small contract.
LATE UPDATE: Just prior to publication, the Commanders announced that both David Mayo and Jonathan Williams have been signed to one-year deals.
Washington signed LB David Mayo and RB Jonathan Williams to one-year deals, the team announced.— Sam Fortier (@Sam4TR) February 24, 2023
RB Jonathan Williams
I like Jonathan Williams, and the gunshot wounds to Brian Robinson and neck injury suffered by JD McKissic opened the door for Williams to get some meaningful snaps in 2022. At 29 years old, the former 5th round running back is at risk of getting squeezed out by a supply of highly talented free agents and rookie college running backs. My guess is that Williams will be at Commanders Training Camp in 2023, but he could struggle to match the 99 offensive snaps he got in ‘22.
Which soon-to-be veteran free agent should be the Commanders highest priority to re-sign for the 2023 season?
This poll is closed