A new era of Washington football started on Thursday last week when the NFL owners unanimously approved the purchase of the Washington Commanders by a group headed by Josh Harris. Fans can get their first look at the 2023 Commanders on Thursday this week when the team holds its first open practice of training camp.
To help familiarize you with the makeup of the 90-man roster, in this article, I’ll provide my take on the Commanders’ depth chart on the day before we first lay eyeballs on the full team taking the field together.
I’ll also highlight a few players that you may not be familiar with or who may have interesting situations.
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.
The Commanders currently have 90 active players under contract: 44 on offense, 42 on defense, and 4 specialists.
Andrew Norwell and the salary cap
With Andrew Norwell’s release this week, Washington’s salary cap position changed. Per Over the Cap, the updated estimated cap space is:
2023 = $12.55m
2024 = $78.83m
There have been a number of roster moves since the last time I published the team’s depth chart.
UDFA Xavier Henderson to active PUP
Undrafted free agent safety Xavier Henderson was placed on the active PUP list last week. With the ‘active’ designation, he still counts against the 90-man roster limit. He can be activated at any time during training camp and return to practice with the team immediately after being cleared by the training and medical staff.
TE Armani Rogers and QB Tim DeMorat
Two moves were announced by the team on Tuesday this week.
One that seemed long overdue was that TE Armani Rogers was placed on IR; Rogers tore his Achilles tendon during OTAs in late May. Without him, the TE room looks to be a bit thin, though things could work out well if everyone stays healthy, if Logan Thomas returns to his 2020 form, and either Cole Turner or Curtis Hodges develops into a solid pass-catching option this season.
The other move was not surprising from a roster standpoint, but the timing was a bit unusual as the Commanders waived their #4 quarterback, Tim DeMorat on the eve of training camp.
Two veteran free agents signed
The two roster spots that opened up have already been filled with a wide receiver and some competition for Joey Slye as the team’s kicker.
WR Byron Pringle (Chiefs, Bears)
The newest Commander is the second former Kansas City wide receiver to be signed as a veteran free agent this year, most likely at the urging of the team’s new offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy. Marcus Kemp was Washington’s first veteran free agent signing of 2023, and he was joined on Tuesday by his former teammate and fellow receiver Byron Pringle. While Kemp is primarily a special teams player with very limited offensive production, Pringle is a legitimate receiver who has over 1,000 career receiving yards. His best season was 2021 when he caught 42 passes for 568 yards and 5 touchdowns for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Playing for a woeful Bears team, and missing 6 games in the middle of the season due to injury, Pringle’s production fell off in 2022, but he is a legitimate NFL receiver who stands a solid chance of making the Commanders roster. He also has experience as a kick returner, with 37 career returns at an average of 26.6 yards, including a 102-yard return for a touchdown in 2020.
Byron Pringle / 6’1 / 201lbs— The Podfather (@TheBurgundyZone) July 25, 2023
29 yrs old / #13
Film is from 2021 but shows how Byron Pringle was used in the Kansas City Offense.
Pringle is at the Bottom of the Screen running a Quick Slant and escaping three defenders for the TD. #HTTC pic.twitter.com/Tc5JSvEhYS
K Michael Badgley
The second-newest Commander is kicker Michael Badgley, who will provide Joey Slye with some competition in camp.
KS4GM provided some details about both kickers in a recent article:
Last season, Badgley went 33 for 33 on his extra points and hit 83% of his field goals, with a long of 53 yards. He was one of three kickers in the league to be perfect on extra points in 2023. Over his 5-year career, he’s hit 97% of his extra points and 82% of his field goals.
Washington’s incumbent kicker, Joey Slye struggled with extra points last year, hitting only 86% of those kicks, and had a virtually identical field goal percentage (83%) to Badgley, with a long of 58. Over his career, Slye has hit 88% of his extra points and 83% of his field goals.
At this point, Slye is slated to make $2.35M this year. If cut, he would save the team $1.85M in cap space. Last year, Badgley was paid $1.23M by the Lions.
One oddity is that Badgley has tended not to handle kickoffs, posting 5 to Slye’s 77 last season. In Detroit, the punter, Jack Fox handled most of those kicks. Slye’s touchback percentage was the third highest in the league (77%).
I’m not sure which kicker will win the competition. Slye has been an average field goal kicker for the Commanders; his issue has been with extra points, going 24 of 28 in 2022 and 106 of 121 (87.6%) in his 4-year career.
For their careers, Joey Slye has been a more accurate kicker.— George Carmi (@Gcarmi21) July 25, 2023
Accuracy: Slye (83%) vs. Badgley (81%)
In fact, Slye has 88.1% FG accuracy while in WSH.
He also has a bigger leg, 27 v 13 attempts at kicks 50+.
Slye needs to tighten up on XP attempts. https://t.co/n4BopTu5Mw
With the new rules on kickoff touchbacks this season, Joey Slye’s big leg on kickoffs may be less of an advantage than it provided under the old touchback rules. It will be interesting to see how this camp battle between kickers — the first of Ron Rivera’s tenure in Washington — plays out.
Positional flexibility and the depth chart
It’s a small note, but on my last depth chart I had Ferrod Gardner listed at linebacker, which is where I expect him to play if he makes the team. In double-checking the accuracy of my depth chart this week, I noticed that the team website lists him as a safety, so I moved him there. I’m not 100% sure that’s the best place for him on the depth chart; for instance, I list rookie safety Quan Martin as the team’s #1 slot defender because that’s where I think he’ll play the most.
Suffice to say that there is a lot of interchangeability between Washington’s safeties and the linebacker and big nickel positions. The team plays a lot of looks that utilize 3 safeties and/or 1 or 2 linebackers.
Similarly, several DL players line up at both interior (DT) and exterior (DE) positions, just as OL players like Nick Gates can play C or G, or Andrew Wylie can play G or OT.
Any depth chart that lists each player only one time (as this one does) will be limited in its ability to portray the complexity of NFL offenses and defenses. My primary goal in this article is to list each active player on the roster — but to list each guy only once for the sake of simplicity and clarity — and to provide a big-picture overview of what the roster depth looks like.
I’ll leave it to you to discuss the nuances and accuracy (or lack of accuracy) of my depth chart in the comments.