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Whenever a team declines a player’s fifth-year option (as Washington did with Chase Young last month), a flare goes up around the league. In three short years, a player that the team thought worthy of a first-round pick has fallen in stature to the point that the team is willing to risk losing him at the end of his rookie contract. Of course, the team might retain him through the use of the franchise tag or a contract extension (or both), but the risk is that a once-highly-sought player will leave in free agency, and the best the team can hope for in that situation is a potential compensatory draft pick, and that is not guaranteed.
This may lead a front office to look for trade partners any time from mid-February until the trade deadline, around the end of October or start of November.
Here at Hogs Haven, there is often a lot of speculation about trading players away — and this offseason has been rife with speculative blogs and radio call-in shows tossing out hypothetical trades for Chase Young, who is probably the highest-profile player in the NFL to have had his 5th year option refused this offseason.
That trade isn’t gonna happen — at least not until the sale of the franchise is completed. Ron Rivera praised the Snyders for allowing the front office to get an extension done with Daron Payne ahead of free agency, but since then, the head coach has talked about the restrictions on him and the front office in terms of major long-term organizational and roster decisions. At minicamp, he repeated the message:
We’re kind of on hold and just being able to let those people know that hey, yes, just a matter of time. We’ve gotta go through this. We’ve gotta be able to present the plan to the ownership and they gotta be in agreement with it too. I mean, we can’t go on until we get a chance to explain to them exactly what our thoughts and ideas are and whether they agree or disagree. I mean, that’s gonna be very important to be able to get those kind of answers going forward to help this organization more than anything else. This really is about making sure we’re in the right position going forward more than anything else.
I mean, there’s still some things that we’ve gotta be able to move on from and have decided on. That’s just the biggest part of it — just being able to get all those other little details taken care of that we need to have taken care of.
This means that Ron Rivera can’t formalize the changes to the coaching structure that he has already implemented, from a practical standpoint, during OTAs and minicamp. It means that players like Kam Curl, who hasn’t been participating in offseason activities, can’t move forward with any potential contract extension negotiations. It means that the front office won’t be trading away Chase Young (or any other significant player on the roster). And it means that the front office won’t be executing any blockbuster trades to acquire players from other teams.
Not until after the ownership change — but that could be as little as 5 weeks away, and big trades can happen in the NFL all the way until Halloween. In fact, for players that have had their 5th-year option declined, mid-season trades seem like they may be more likely than preseason trades.
Today, I’m not here to talk about trading Chase Young away; I’m here to highlight some other players that had their 5th year options declined who could be targeted by the Commanders front office between the time of the ownership change (maybe mid-July) and the trade deadline (around the end of October).
LB Isaiah Simmons (Arizona Cardinals): Simmons is an intriguing player because he fits the versatile type Ron Rivera likes in linebacker/safety hybrids. Simmons, in fact, is one of the players that a lot of fans wanted to see Washington draft instead of Chase Young back in 2020. The Cardinals appear to be in full-on tank mode in 2023, so acquiring some draft capital while shedding Simmons as he finishes his rookie contract might be appealing.
OT Mekhi Becton (New York Jets): Becton played well as a rookie, but injuries limited him to only one game and 48 snaps over the last two seasons. The Jets are hoping he can bounce back, but there is some skepticism about his future with the organization. The Commanders could use some depth at OT as soon as possible. Is Becton worth investing draft capital into at this point?
OL Cesar Ruiz (New Orleans Saints): Ruiz has played decently in three seasons with the Saints, but is no world-beater. Washington’s offensive line depth, especially at guard, could use some bolstering. Ruiz has started 40 games and played in 46, with over 2,700 offensive snaps. Most of those have been at right guard, but he also started 5 games at Center in 2021. I’m not sure the Saints have the OL depth needed to allow them to trade Ruiz, but for the right price, Ruiz could fit into the Commanders’ plans.
LB Jordyn Brooks (Seattle Seahawks): The Seahawks drafted Derick Hall in the 2nd round and signed Devin Bush to a one-year contract in free agency, which may signal that Brooks is not in the team’s long-term plans coming off a torn ACL. It seems pretty unlikely he would immediately be available via trade, but if the Geno Smith magic isn’t working as well in 2023 as it did in 2022, perhaps Brooks could be available in a midseason trade.
LB Patrick Queen (Baltimore Ravens): Queen has been solid for the Ravens, but it appears as if they may be dedicating their cap space at the LB position to Roquan Smith. Baltimore signed Rock Ya-Sin in free agency and drafted linebackers in the 3rd & 4th round in April, so they may be looking to a future without Queen. It’s hard to imagine the Ravens trading him in ‘23, but if they did, he could be a great addition to the Commanders defense.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs): The final pick of the first round in 2020, Edwards-Helaire has not been a complete bust for the Chiefs, but a disappointing selection nonetheless. Edwards-Helaire has been active for only 33 of a possible 49 regular season games in his 3 years in the NFL, but he has averaged right around 1,000 yards from scrimmage per 16 games played. He has skills as a runner and receiver, which makes him largely redundant with Antonio Gibson on the Commanders roster. If it weren’t for the potential Bieniemy reunion, I wouldn’t include CEH on this list, but if Gibson suffered an early- to mid-season injury and Washington was in competition for the playoffs at mid-season, maybe a trade for the guy who looks like the 3rd RB on the Chiefs depth chart might make sense for both teams.
Which player does it make sense for Washington to trade for in 2023?
This poll is closed
Isaiah Simmons (Cardinals)
Mecki Becton (Jets)
Cesar Ruiz (Saints)
Jordyn Brooks (Seahawks)
Patrick Queen (Ravens)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs)
I don’t like the idea of tradin’ for none of ‘em!