Let’s take a look at the updated depth chart
The numbers that appear beside some players’ names are 2023 cap hits per Over the Cap.
Please note that assigned positions and color coding are my own personal opinions. They do not necessarily represent the thinking of Washington’s coaches or front office, nor are they necessarily consistent with fan consensus. This chart represents my interpretation, and may not reflect the thoughts of other writers on Hogs Haven. Finally, when it comes to backup players, I don’t put much effort into making sure that they are on the right or left or behind the specific player that they backup. I mostly just try to fit everyone on the chart efficiently.
Including agreements with free agents from other teams whose signings won’t be finalized until Wednesday or later, the Commanders now have 70 players either under contract or agreed to terms, with 35 on offense, 32 on defense, and 3 specialists.
On the first day of the “legal tampering” period, Washington’s front office didn’t make any big splashes.
Keeping our own
The Pro Bowl defensive tackle wasn’t going anywhere in 2023 anyway because he had been franchise tagged by the Commanders, but ahead of the legal tampering period, it was announced that Payne had agreed to a 4-year, $90m extension, making him the 2nd-highest paid interior defensive lineman in the league behind Aaron Donald.
Payne signed his new contract on Monday, making it official that he is under contract with Washington through 2026. He will still be just 29 years old at the end of this extension, and likely poised for another payday.
By replacing the franchise tag amount of nearly $19m with a long term deal, the Commanders reduced Payne’s 2023 salary cap hit to just $10m, helping create room for the team to be active in free agency.
It was announced on Friday that Danny Johnson, a special teams player and backup cornerback who played well in the final weeks of the 2022 season, had agreed to an extension. Per Over the Cap, the 2-year deal is worth $4.9m, with a 2023 cap charge of $2.29m.
Johnson has spent his entire career with Washington, entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
24-year-old cornerback Cam Dantzler was released by the Vikings on Friday, and successfully claimed off of waivers by the Commanders on Monday. The release of Dentzler was described as “surprising” by one Vikings fan blog. The Daily Norsemen had this to say:
Dantzler’s three-year tenure in Minnesota can best be described as “up and down.” He played in eleven games his rookie season, starting ten. He had two interceptions, a fumble recovery, and 46 combined tackles. While there were plenty of rookie growing pains, Dantzler showed plenty of flashes of potential.
Many expected Dantzler to take a leap in the past two seasons, but it never really came. It may a bit telling that he seemed to fall out of favor with two different coaching staffs. Dantzler’s playing time under the final year of the Mike Zimmer regime was wildly inconsistent, and he started two fewer games his sophomore season. Injuries marred the second half of his 2022 season under Kevin O’Connell, but even after Dantzler returned, he didn’t see much of the field, playing only 41 defensive snaps after Week 9.
The article goes on to say that the Vikings remained more than $6m over the cap on Friday. Seen in this light, Dantzler’s release was also part of necessary cap savings. The Vikings, like all NFL teams, have until 4pm Wednesday to become cap compliant. Over the Cap currently estimates the Vikings to be $7.4m over the allowed cap number, and there have been multiple reports that the team may restructure or release star DB Harrison Smith in an effort to bridge the gap.
As it stands now, Dantzler is likely to be seen as the #3 boundary corner, behind veteran leader Kendall Fuller and 3rd year player, Benjamin St-Juste, though that may well change with further free agency signings or the draft. Since he was picked up on waivers, the Commanders inherit the final year of Dantzler’s contract, which has a cap hit of $2.74m.
Veteran free agents reported to have agreed to terms
Reports on Monday indicate that 3 players who will become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday have agreed to terms with Washington. Cap hits for 2023 and other contract details are not yet available, as the contracts will not actually be signed until Wednesday at the earliest. Reported terms are based on information provided by sources — typically player agents — who frequently provide the maximum value of a deal if all incentives are achieved. Details of new contracts will become public knowledge later this week or early next week.
NIck Gates (Giants)
Nick Gates has played both center and left guard. After returning from a lengthy injury that involved a reported 7 surgeries, Gates played in 10 games in 2022.
PFF career grades fro Nick Gates
It appears that Gates will step into the role that had been filled by Wes Schweitzer for the past few seasons as a player capable of starting or backing up at both center and guard positions.
Washington seems to consider Nick Gates the new Wes Schweitzer.— Sam Fortier (@Sam4TR) March 13, 2023
2020: Washington signs Schweitzer, 27, versatile but mostly inside, 6-4, 300, 3yr deal worth up to $13.5M.
2023: Washington signs Gates, 27, versatile but mostly inside, 6-5, 307, 3yr deal worth up to $18M. https://t.co/NRQaY6jsK4
Andrew Wylie (Chiefs)
Clearly, the idea of “position flex” that has been so much a part of the vernacular of Commanders fans since Ron Rivera’s arrival is alive and well. While Nick Gates is a C/G, Wylie has experience at both RG and RT positions, though he started at tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs and played the entire 2022 season at that position (1,276 snaps).
Wylie adds some nice mobility and can block in space. Suspect he'll play RT with Cosmi kicking inside to RG, but either way those two line up, #Commanders will have a right side of the line that can move pic.twitter.com/St1DPe9D7Z— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) March 13, 2023
While the team has not clarified their intentions yet (that will happen, if at all, at a press conference later in the week, after the start of the new league year when contracts become “officially official”), in looking at the tea leaves, I am assuming that the plan going into training camp will be to use Wylie at right tackle, and move 2nd year player Sam Cosmi inside to right guard.
UPDATED: Confirmation on positional plan from John Keim:
Got a few questions on where Andrew Wylie will play. Was told he'll play right tackle with Sam Cosmi shifting to RG (he's been told). Cosmi has maintained he's fine at either spot, just wanted to know which 1. Gives them an athletic G inside, good run blocker.— John Keim (@john_keim) March 14, 2023
Cody Barton (Seahawks)
The final veteran free agent reported to have agreed to terms with the Commanders is Cody Barton, a linebacker who was taken in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
Cody Barton, you have my attention— Nick Akridge (@PFF_NickAkridge) March 13, 2023
Seattle's defense is scrambling at the snap so Barton just goes stride for stride with Rondale Moore up the seam lol pic.twitter.com/6hqZlEo7U6
With several media reports saying that the Commanders are not close to agreeing to terms with veteran linebacker Cole Holcomb, Barton provides some insurance for the team. Barton was active for 16 or 17 games in every one of his 4 seasons in Seattle. He was a part-time linebacker for his first three seasons, logging between 114 and 189 snaps per season, but his defensive snap count jumped to 895 in 2022, following the departure of Bobby Wagner, when Barton started 11 games, including 7 of the final 8.
Barton mostly played WILL or weakside linebacker, but took over at middle linebacker for the final regular-season game and the playoff loss to the 49ers in place of injured Jordyn Brooks. Washington rarely plays a traditional 4-3 defense, so the coaching staff seems to value fast linebackers who can both cover and tackle, minimizing the distinctions between the players on the field. Barton has a reputation as being better against the run, but he is fast and has flashed coverage ability at times in his career.
Cody Barton showed off his range last season, accumulating 23 hustle stops (tied for 2nd-most in the NFL).— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 13, 2023
Barton recorded an 8.2% defensive stop rate in 2022, which was higher than any linebacker on the Commanders.#HTTC https://t.co/QCilYYBuJg pic.twitter.com/Qs1rnIKevV
Barton will almost certainly play a role on special teams. He played over 1,200 special teams snaps for the Seahawks in his 4 years in Seattle.
Barton’s deal appears to be a 1-year, $2.6m contract that has been reported by several sources to be fully guaranteed.