Veteran free agency is right around the corner. The “legal tampering period” begins on Monday, 13 March, and free agency officially opens for business at 4pm EST on Wednesday, 15 March — the start of the 2023 league year.
Washington Commanders free agency options will be a short series — likely four articles, each of which will profile 4 or 5 veteran free agents at positions of perceived need for the Commanders.
To make this a little bit different, and hopefully a little bit of fun, KyleSmithforGM and Bill-in-Bangkok have agreed on the positions and the players. Each of us will write our own player profiles, meaning that you’ll get TWO profiles on each player. With any luck, that will lead to a more well-rounded view of the profiled players.
Obviously, we’re not trying to provide a comprehensive list of every free agent available; rather, this is an effort to ‘prime the pump’ a little bit, and encourage discussion ahead of the upcoming free agency period.
We encourage you to not only comment on the players we’ve chosen to highlight, but to add your own thoughts or links to profiles of players you find intriguing. To keep things tidy, we encourage you to focus your thoughts on the position group of the day.
We are starting with the offensive tackles this morning, but we’ll feature a different position group in each article of the series, which will run daily this week.
In 2021, the end-of-season offensive line rankings from Pro Football Focus (PFF) saw the Washington Football Team ranked 6th behind the Cowboys, Bucs, Niners, Eagles and Chiefs. PFF’s summary was concise:
There was no weak link on the unit, especially in pass protection, and even the players who replaced injured starters acquitted themselves well. The dynamics did shift a little with those injuries. Samuel Cosmi, Wes Schweitzer and Chase Roullier earned the three best PFF run-blocking grades, but each missed significant time, and their replacements were better pass-blockers than run-blockers.
A lot more changed than just the team name in 2022. All Pro right guard Brandon Scherff left in free agency and the front office decided to cut left guard Ereck Flowers. The team went into the start of the season with big question marks at both of those positions, with two former Panthers who had at one time been considered elite linemen (Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner) being brought in to work with the guy — OL coach John Matsko — who had made Norwell an All Pro and Turner a 5-time Pro Bowler. Both ultimately proved to be downgrades, and a spate of injuries that cost starting center Chase Roullier nearly his entire season and which led to a merry-go-round of different starting lineups throughout the season took their toll. In PFF’s 2022 end-of-season offensive line rankings, the Eagles, Chiefs, Niners and Bucs all held up pretty well and rated in the top-9 for the season. The Cowboys fell to #12; the Commanders collapsed to #20, and for anyone who watched the team play all season, it is probably hard to understand why PFF didn’t rank them lower.
Once the season was over and Ron Rivera started talking about the road ahead, he promised that the front office and coaches would prioritize the rebuilding of the offensive line. There’s so much work to be done with this group that it will almost certainly require a couple of free agents and one or two draft picks. It will be partially financed by the $26.2 million cap savings that resulted from the release of Carson Wentz, but more releases, restructures or renegotiations will be needed to have the cap space required to sign a couple of difference makers.
Washington currently has 3 key offensive tackles on the roster:
- LT Charles Leno - 32 y.o. - 2023 cap hit = $12.5m ($8m savings if cut)
- RT Sam Cosmi - 24 y.o. - 2023 cap hit = $1.8m
- Swing Tackle Cornelius Lucas - 32 y.o. - 2023 cap hit = $4.35m ($3.45m savings if cut)
With all this in mind, we will look at 4 potential free agent tackles at a range of projected cap hits.
CLICK HERE to see the Commanders current 63-man depth chart
Orlando Brown, 26, Chiefs
Weight: 345 pounds
NFL entry: 3rd round, 2018, #83 overall
2022 cap hit: $16.6m (franchise tag)
When it became clear in early 2021 that Orlando Brown was going to want a bigger contract than the Ravens were prepared to offer him, Eric DeCosta worked with the Chiefs to move him to Kansas City. Baltimore netted a 2021 first, third and fourth, as well as a 2022 second for Brown, the Ravens’ 2021 second, and a 2022 6th. Brown played the fourth year of his rookie deal for the Chiefs in 2021, and then they placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on him in 2022.
This offseason, if he makes it to free agency, Brown would be considered one of the top prizes, and likely the most highly regarded tackle on the market. If he remains at right tackle, his estimated contract value is in the $18-20M AAV range.
Both in Baltimore, where the Ravens cut his time short, and in Kansas City, where Brown threatened to hold out after being tagged last year, Brown has seemed primarily focused on his own financial advancement. Now, Super Bowl ring on hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if that becomes his nearly singular goal.
While I believe Washington should definitely strongly consider a right tackle in the free agent market, I think Brown is too rich an option, and that he’s probably not a good culture fit for Ron Rivera.
Orlando Brown was tagged by the Chiefs last year, and so far, the team and the player have been unable to reach a long-term deal. A number of media outlets have projected that the Chiefs will tag Brown again for the 2023 season, which would push his pay up to nearly $20m for the season and take him off of the free agent market. In fact, with the tag deadline on 7 March, there’s good reason to think that KC could tag him before this article gets published.
Per ESPN, the Chiefs offered Brown a six-year, $139M extension (APY $23.16m) prior to the 2022 season, which would’ve made him the NFL’s highest-paid left tackle. But the two sides have failed to strike a long-term agreement.
CBS Sports writes, “The 49ers’ Trent Williams is currently the highest paid at the position, earning an average of $23.01M annually. The Packers’ David Bakhtiari ($23M) is the only other tackle — left or right — to earn at least $23M per year. It stands to reason Brown, 26, will once again look to clearly reset the market on a potential long-term deal, especially after earning his first Super Bowl ring.”
Orlando Brown is a very good tackle, but it’s hard to believe that he will get away from the Chiefs and into free agency, or, if he did, that the Commanders would want to meet his price tag.
The only real argument that I can imagine that gets Brown to Washington is that, somehow, Kansas City GM Brett Veach, after having executed a mega-trade to acquire Brown in 2021, somehow allows him to leave in free agency, and the veteran tackle follows his former offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, to Washington DC, which sounds more like a bad Hollywood movie script than a realistic scenario in today’s NFL.
I don’t think Brown is a realistic free agent target for anyone aside from the Chiefs in 2023.
Mike McGlinchey, 28, 49ers
Weight: 312 pounds
NFL entry: 1st round, 2018, #9 overall
2022 cap hit: $10.8m (5th year option)
Niners fans don’t love McGlinchey. Much like a number of Washington fans who will always feel a bit dirty about the fact that the front office took Daron Payne in the draft, leaving Derwin James on the board, 49ers fans remember that same draft in which SF took McGlinchey #9 overall, four picks ahead of Payne.
The fact that journeyman Tom Compton (a former Redskins swing tackle) stepped in for McGlinchey when he was injured in 2021 and played competently hasn’t improved the mood of Niners fans.
The feeling seems to be that the 49ers front office, who exercised McGlinchey’s 5th year option at $10.88m, will balk at giving him a big payday and will invite him to test the market. This could be good news for the Commanders, who may be the right fit for the right tackle — especially if the coaching staff decides to move Sam Cosmi to RG, which may be his ideal position.
Spotrac calculates McGlinchey’s market value at 14.8 million per year. A quick look at RT salaries indicates that this may be an optimistic estimate.
The 28-year-old McGlinchey is likely to be looking for a contract that will not only compare to guys like Braden Smith and Lane Johnson, but to go beyond the $18m per year level in recognition of the rising salary cap. A 4 or 5 year deal that would put McGlinchey into the top-3 right tackle contracts might sound like too much, but would likely seem quite reasonable by Year 3.
If McGlinchey is worthy of $18m+ per year on a contract at right tackle, how does he compare to Orlando Brown, who seems intent on achieving something in the neighborhood of $24m per year as a left tackle?
Looking at PFF grades, Brown seems to be the superior player:
But PFF is notoriously unreliable, especially when it comes to grading offensive line performance.
Sports Information Solutions offers a slightly different look at the two players.
McGlinchey had a much better “blown block” percentage than did Brown in 2022, at 2.3% vs 3.6%. Most people will notice that, in addition to giving up fewer sacks, Brown’s career “blown block” mark is better than McGlinchey’s, but Orlando Brown actually has a troubling 5-year trend of: 0.4%, 1.6%, 1.5%, 2.8%, 3.6%. While McGlinchey has been a fairly steady performer, Brown seems to be declining as a blocker. McGlinchey’s play was stellar at points in 2022; in fact, for eight weeks in a row from Week 10-17, McGlinchey didn’t allow a sack.
McGlinchey was unable to play the final 9 games of the ‘21 season after suffering a torn quadriceps. When you consider that he was returning from this serious injury, and that he also suffered broken ribs during the ‘22 season, his performance as a 5th year player seems quite impressive.
Mike McGlinchey is likely to be the most expensive right tackle available in free agency this off-season. It may be that the Commanders won’t want to spend the kind of money it will take to get him, and if they want to spend less, there are other options, but McGlinchey would immediately be the best right tackle to play for Washington since the departure of Morgan Moses after the 2020 season.
My sense, based on what I’ve read about McGlinchey’s takes on free agency this offseason, makes it seem as though he may have an inflated sense of his own value on the market, likely grounded more in his draft pedigree than his actual performance on the field. There are concerns that as the league’s pass rushers get ever more explosive, McGlinchey may lack the athleticism to keep up with the most elite among them.
As with so many overdrafted players, McGlinchey is a bit of a victim of unrealistic expectations set by his fanbase and observers. He’s been a reliable, solid presence on the right side of the line, but when a tackle is drafted in the top ten, there’s a presumption that he’ll be great, and McGlinchey hasn’t been, particularly as a pass blocker.
With it appearing that McGlinchey will be pursuing a contract in the $15M+ range and that he’s a tackle whose chief strength is his run blocking ability - which, incidentally, appears less impressive than that of our current swing tackle - I don’t think he’s a good value proposition for Washington, and I expect that he’ll be overcompensated by some tackle-desperate team elsewhere in the league.
After several years of solid play, some people still want to crap on Cornelius Lucas, even as a swing tackle. It's absolutely nuts. pic.twitter.com/2sZg7RWY9P— KyleSmith4GM (@Smith4Gm) February 22, 2023
Isaiah Wynn, 28, Patriots
Weight: 313 pounds
NFL entry: 1st round, 2018, #23 overall
2022 cap hit: $10.41m (5th year option)
A first round pick in the 2018 draft, Wynn missed his entire rookie season with an Achilles injury, and didn’t really come into his own until 2021, where he played in 16 games as the Patriots’ left tackle. In 2022, Wynn sat out voluntary OTAs, was moved to right tackle, and then proceeded to get testy with the press.
He was benched multiple times throughout the season, after being a league leader in penalties, and then lost the end of the year to a variety of injuries. It’s not out of the question that Wynn eventually ends up at guard somewhere, given his struggles, but Wynn is still relatively young and athletic enough that, in the right environment, he could potentially surprise.
There are too many questions marks about Wynn for me to seriously consider him as the answer at right tackle for Washington, but if there were interest from the coaching staff, he could potentially be a Ereck Flowers-style reclamation project with nice upside as a converted guard. In order for that to make financial sense, however, he’d have to be willing to accept something in the $5-6M/year range, which may be far less than he’s expecting once he hits the open market.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how or why we ended up with Isaiah Wynn as one of the featured free agents in this article. A former 1st round pick in the 2018 draft, Wynn’s career has been a train wreck. Rather than spend time writing a recap for you, let me quote from an article titled, “Is There Any Case For Re-Signing Isaiah Wynn?”
Wynn missed his entire rookie season due to an Achilles injury. He then missed six games in 2020 while playing at a relatively average level. Wynn got slightly back on track the next season, missing only one game and offering solid play at left tackle.
But this season was a complete disaster for the Georgia product, who was playing in a contract year.
After yet again sitting out voluntary OTAs, Wynn showed up for mandatory minicamp and promptly was moved over to right tackle, with Trent Brown moving over to the left. The rest of Wynn’s summer was filled with speculation, trade rumors and combative exchanges with reporters. And things got even worse once the regular season started.
The first two months saw the 27-year-old rank among the league leaders in penalties, give up an alarming amount of quarterback pressures and get benched on multiple occasions. Wynn again was the subject of trade rumors before the November deadline, leading to an awkward and heated exchange with a reporter in the locker room. After playing in a limited role against the New York Jets in Week 11, Wynn saw the rest of his season wiped out by various injuries.
My only thoughts on Wynn are that NFL teams are likely to hang up on his agent if he calls.
I can’t see any reason why the Commanders would want to sign Isaiah Wynn.
Jermaine Eluemunor, 29, Raiders
Weight: 332 pounds
NFL entry: 5th round, 2017, #159 overall (Ravens)
2022 cap hit: $1.25m
I think there’s a place for value shopping, and Eluemunor looks like what you find in the bargain basement when you pick through the loose clothing piled on a big table on a Saturday morning. He might not be exactly what you want, but you can probably make do with him, and he seems like a decent deal at the price.
Jermaine Eluemunor has played the right side of the offensive line for the Ravens, Patriots and Raiders; he has started at both right guard and right tackle. With the Commanders seemingly in two minds about Sam Cosmi’s best position, adding Eluemunor in free agency could potentially provide the opportunity to let the two compete in training camp in order to figure out the best 5 to put on the field.
Eluemunor, who had struggled to gain traction with any single team in the NFL before 2022, has never made more than $2.13m in any single season, and before last season, had never played more than 419 snaps in a season.
With the Raiders, in 2021, he played 266 snaps as the right guard in place of the injured Andre James. He did not get rave reviews. Here’s what Bleacher Report had to say about him going into his final start at the position:
“Jermaine Eluemunor has already started games at right tackle and guard as the Raiders try to put out a starting five that can help this offense get going.
Regardless of position, Eluemunor doesn’t seem to be the answer. According to Sports Info Solutions, the former Patriots lineman has the fifth-highest blown-block percentage of anyone who has played at least 50 snaps this season.”
That is exactly what happened — Week 4 was Eluemunor’s final offensive snap of the 2021 season.
The light apparently came on in 2022. With Alex Leatherwood’s release at the end of training camp, the Raiders offensive line was suddenly not what anyone had expected it to be. Eluemunor ended up playing one game at right guard, one at left tackle, and all or part of 15 games at right tackle. He finished the season with 938 offensive snaps.
Look at how he compared to Orlando Brown of the Chiefs:
Eluemunor had comparable grades from PFF, with better run blocking grades. He had better blown block percentages than Brown in every category in 2022, and he allowed fewer sacks. The only area of real concern for the Raiders right tackle was the fact that he was flagged 11 times — 6 times for false starts.
Final NFL penalties leaders for 2022. First, most accepted penalties:— Greg Auman (@gregauman) January 18, 2023
Landon Dickerson (Eagles): 13 for 89 yards
Donovan Smith (Bucs): 12 for 100
Jermaine Eluemunor (Raiders): 11 for 78
Ikem Ekwonu (Panthers): 11 for 76
Kevin Dotson (Steelers): 11 for 75
Jermaine Eluemunor is the kind of guy we love to think about here on Hogs Haven — a 5th round pick in the 2017 draft who has worked hard for 6 years and finally seems to have arrived. His measured performance by two different rating outlets compares him favorably to Orlando Brown, considered one of the best OTs potentially available in free agency this offseason.
I imagine the Raiders will want to retain him, but I doubt whether they will want to get into a bidding war over Eluemunor’s services. It feels like the Commanders could woo him with a few whispered promises and an extra $500K in salary or a slightly higher guarantee. The 29-year-old appears to be hitting his stride, and can probably offer a few seasons of solid play as a guard/tackle under the tutelage of John Matsko in the Eric Bieniemy scheme.
According to Spotrac’s calculated “market value” - which in some cases has been wildly inaccurate - Eluemunor is looking at a new contract somewhere in the range of $5.6M/year, which would put him at around the 13th highest paid right tackle in the league.
Last season with the Raiders, Eluemunor played quite well, only allowing 3 sacks, and this offseason he was designated by Pro Football Focus as “the one free agent Las Vegas can’t afford to lose”:
Eluemunor reunited with this duo after time shared together in New England in the past, and he enjoyed a career year as a starter at right tackle. After a slow start, Eluemunor came into his own following the team’s Week 6 bye. From Week 7 through the end of the season, his 83.1 pass-blocking grade ranked fourth among right tackles, with his 4.0% pressure rate allowed on true pass sets also the fourth-best mark at the position.
Eluemunor probably doesn’t have the potential upside of the guys at the top of this list, but he’s a high floor gamer with relatively little wear on his tires (31 games started) for a player who has been in the league for six years. He’s exactly the sort of player Washington could sign on a two-year deal, and who could give a Day 2 tackle pick in the draft the opportunity to develop. I’d absolutely give his agent a ring.
Considering everything, including cap hit, which profiled player do you think is the best choice for the Washington Commanders to pursue this offseason?
This poll is closed
Orlando Brown, 26, Chiefs
Mike McGlinchey, 28, 49ers
Isaiah Wynn, 28, Patriots
Jermaine Eluemunor, 29, Raiders
I don’t like none of ‘em!