It is getting tiresome to talk about, but the fact remains the Washington Football Team still does not have a viable long-term or short-term answer at quarterback.
The roster is in better shape than a year ago, but as Ron Rivera enters his second offseason in charge, the most important position in the ultimate team sport is once again at the heart of all of the team’s problems.
Currently, Washington has Taylor Heinicke and Alex Smith under contract for next season, and Kyle Allen is an exclusive rights free agent, but none of these three are expected to be much better than a replacement-level passer in 2021 and all three have a worrisome injury history.
Washington can look to the NFL Draft to find a replacement, but at pick No. 19 may have to trade up to nab one of the top collegiate passers and recent history has not been kind to Washington.
Of course, there is one quarterback in the trade market – or at least one who very much wishes he were – who would solve all of Washington’s problems now and for years to come: The Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson.
The challenge for Washington and any team who hopes to land the 25-year-old Watson is convincing an unwilling trade partner to part with a quarterback of his quality.
What would it take to change their mind? A Vito Corleone offer they can’t refuse. And while Washington might not be in the best position to make such an offer, they should consider pulling the trigger on their best shot.
NBC Sports’ Peter King writes Washington would be an intriguing spot to land Watson, but the price for the ultimate problem solver at quarterback: Chase Young, another promising young player, and three or four very high draft picks.
And unless Rivera can be Luca Brasi, King says a deal like that would leave Washington without “much of what makes it an attractive future team.” But overpaying may be the only thing that gets Watson out of Houston.
So, should Washington even consider a deal that would see last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year leave after one year? The answer from most is an emphatic no.
And that is likely Rivera’s answer as well.
But that lands Washington right back to where they have been for the last few seasons. And if the Rivera regime is going to end the cycle of mediocre (or worse play) and have any success in making the playoffs and winning a playoff game for the first time since 2005, a top-quality quarterback may be more important than a sensational edge rusher.
And after striking out on landing Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, it looks increasingly unlikely Washington will be able to land a pro bowl quality quarterback, who doesn’t carry the baggage of recent inconsistent play (which eliminates Las Vegas’ Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota from contention), this offseason.
And while the price for Watson is astronomically high, so is the drop in on-field quality from Watson to Mariota, Carr, Sam Darnold, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Teddy Bridgewater, Heinicke, Allen, or Alex Smith. Or any player Washington could draft.
Bottom line: If Washington doesn’t want the production from their talented, young, game-breaking defense to go to waste, they must start a quarterback who is more than just a game-manager. And that may mean trading away something great.
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