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Projecting Washington’s 2023 roster on the eve of free agency

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Yesterday, Bill published his updated look at Washington’s depth chart, accounting for all the players currently under contract, including those recently re-signed to low end deals - primarily back-of-the-roster guys.

With the “legal tampering’ process opening up tomorrow, and full-fledged free agency starting on Wednesday, I thought it seemed like a great time to scour through the players currently on the roster, and identify the spots most easily upgraded through free agency and the draft over the next couple of months.

My own team-building philosophy is: Use free agency to raise the floor of your team and use the draft to raise its ceiling. In essence, plug workable free agents into any gaping holes in your roster - so that you aren’t stretching for “need” in the draft - and then pick the best players available at high value positions in the draft with the goal of pushing up the talent threshold of your roster.

In looking at Bill’s depth chart, I don’t see any starting caliber players being released during the free agency period, unless perhaps Chase Roullier is too injured to be able to start next year. At this point, I expect Charles Leno, Chase Roullier, and Logan Thomas all to be the presumed starters at their positions going into the 2023 season, if each of them are healthy.


On the offensive side of the ball, by my count, there are “good enough” starters at nine of eleven positions. By “good enough,” I mean that it would be difficult to improve them significantly in free agency without breaking the bank:

QB: Sam Howell

RB: Brian Robinson/Antonio Gibson

WR: Terry McLaurin/Curtis Samuel/Jahan Dotson

TE: Logan Thomas

LT: Charles Leno

C: Chase Roullier (assuming he is healthy. If he’s not, center goes into the FA mix as well)

RG: Sam Cosmi

That leaves two positions, left guard and right tackle, which should be pursued in free agency. I don’t have confidence that either Andrew Norwell or Chris Paul are options that can’t be improved upon at a reasonable price in free agency, and right tackle is currently a black hole.

My free agent preferences:

Will Hernandez, LG (3-year, $4M/yr) - Hernandez was underwhelming with the Giants, after having been taken in the second round in 2018, but he stepped up with the Cardinals last year on a one-year, prove-it deal. This is a guy who has not yet hit his ceiling. Washington should get in close to the ground floor and improve its guard play immediately.

Jermaine Eluemunor, RT (3-year, $6M/yr) - Right now, Eluemunor is my free agency “diamond in the rough.” Through a series of articles here in the past week or so, it’s been established that right tackle is a position - perhaps THE position - of growing importance throughout the league over the course of the last decade. Eluemunor languished a bit on an underperforming Raiders team last year, but I think there’s something there worth pursuing. If he doesn’t work out as the starting tackle, he would be a plus swing going forward.

My draft preferences:

On the offensive side of the ball, there are a number of spots that can, and should be improved through the draft. I’ll list several options below:

QB2/3: Jake Haener, Tyson Bagent, etc. (Day 3); a vet free agent should be added here too.

RB3 (groomed to replace Gibson in 2024): Kenny McIntosh, Tyjae Spears, etc. (early Day 3)

WR4/5: Rashee Rice (Day 3 pick)

TE4 (with upside): Sam LaPorta (late Day 2, early Day 3 pick)

OT2: Broderick Jones, Dawand Jones, Anton Harrison, Darnell Wright (Day 1 or 2 pick); Eventual starter.

IOL2: John Michael Schmitz, Steve Avila, Joe Tippmann (Day 2 pick); Eventual starter.


Looking at starting level holes in Jack Del Rio’s group, the defensive side of the ball is in relatively good shape, particularly if Washington re-signs linebacker Cole Holcomb, which it absolutely should. If that happens, Washington has eleven NFL-caliber starters, though they could definitely use improvement in the immediate depth.

EDGE: Montez Sweat/Chase Young

DT: Jon Allen/Daron Payne

LB: Jamin Davis/Cole Holcomb (if Holcomb is not re-signed, LB becomes a major FA need)

CB: Kendall Fuller/Ben St-Juste

S: Kam Curl/Darrick Forrest/Percy Butler

Again, I’m assuming Cole Holcomb is re-signed, but for the purpose of this exercise, let’s pretend he’s not. At that point, two substantial holes present themselves that should be addressed in free agency: linebacker and CB3.

My free agent preferences:

Anthony Barr, LB (2-year, $4M/yr) - Barr is not a long term solution, but Washington doesn’t need him to be. He’s a highly experienced coverage linebacker who has - by nearly all accounts - been a very positive influence on Dallas’ young LBs over the past couple of years. Washington could use someone like that in the LB room, particularly given that they should be looking for more LB talent in the draft this April.

Byron Murphy, CB (3-year, $11M/yr) - This is the closest thing to a “high-priced” free agent signing I’m recommending this offseason, and that’s primarily because I see Murphy as a potential successor to Kendall Fuller in 2024. Murphy’s contract could be structured so that his cap hit this year is minimal, and that when it bumps up next season, it’s essentially replacing Fuller’s deal, which is in the same range. At 25 years old, Murphy should still have several good years ahead of him.

My draft preferences:

On the defensive side of the ball, there are several depth - and future starting - positions that should be targeted in the draft:

EDGE3: Day 2 talent who slips/Day 3; both Sweat and Young’s futures are up in the air. Washington should start grooming depth/potential replacements for at least one of them.

DT (unless Payne is extended): My assumption is that Payne will be extended, in which case I would avoid this position in the draft, unless a gem slips. If Payne isn’t, this goes into the Day 2 consideration bundle. [Note, as of 3/12, Payne has been extended]

LB3: Daiyan Henley, Dorian Williams, Demarvion Overshown (late Day 2, early Day 3); Eventual starter.

CB3/4: Joey Porter Jr., Devon Witherspoon, Garrett Williams (Day 1 or Day 2); Eventual starter.

All of the offensive and defensive players not explicitly listed here should be targeted for upgrades in later rounds of the draft.

Special Teams

I would like to see Washington bring in a placekicker through the draft, or as an undrafted free agent, to compete with Joey Slye. Way and Cheeseman are safe for now.


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