The end of the 2022 NFL season is here for 28 NFL teams. That means those teams are either filling out coaching staffs or looking ahead to free agency and the 2023 NFL draft.
The Washington Commanders season ended two weeks ago. Washington promptly fired offensive coordinator Scott Turner and immediately turned to offseason preparation.
Regardless of any coaching staff changes, the Commanders have some holes to fill on the roster in 2023. Washington has some notable free agents in defensive tackle Daron Payne, quarterback Taylor Heinicke and linebacker Cole Holcomb. The Commanders are expected to apply the franchise tag to Payne if the two sides do not agree to a deal over the next several weeks.
Outside of the obvious need at quarterback, Washington has needs on the offensive line, cornerback and linebacker. The most pressing need is the offensive line. The Commanders struggled in pass protection last season, and they are specifically weak at guard.
No surprise, PFF went with an offensive lineman for the Commanders in Nate Davis of Tennessee.
The 6-foot-3, 316-pound Davis was a third-round pick out of Charlotte by the Tennessee Titans in 2019. Since his entry into the NFL, the 26-year-old Davis has played in 55 games through four seasons, with 54 starts. Davis became a starter in Week 4 of his rookie season and never looked back.
He has missed 11 career games due to injury. Something of note, Davis is a native of Ashburn, Va., where the Commanders’ headquarters are located, and was a high-school teammate of star defensive tackle Jonathan Allen.
Davis is coming off the best season of his career, with his 70.6 overall grade his top mark through four seasons and his 66.8 pass-blocking grade in 2022 almost a 15-point upgrade over his previous high. Davis finished the 2022 season on injured reserve due to an ankle injury but is expected to make a full recovery.
Veteran right guard Trai Turner struggled in 2022, with his 53.0 grade ranking 64th out of 78 qualifying guards. The Commanders would benefit from an injection of youth to their aging and injury-battered interior offensive line, no matter who the quarterback ultimately is in 2023.
The Titans have the type of running game Washington wants to emulate, and signing their reliable right guard would be a smart move for the Commanders.
Defensively, PFF has the Commanders looking at linebacker T.J. Edwards.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed Edwards as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin in 2019. He took over as the permanent starter at one of the linebacker spots and has remained there since. In four seasons, Edwards has appeared in 61 games, making 47 starts.
The biggest question mark on the Commanders defense heading into 2022 was who would play middle linebacker alongside 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis, which remains the biggest question mark on the defense heading into 2023. With potential big money extensions on the way for interior defender Daron Payne and edge defender Montez Sweat, not to mention Chase Young, it may be tough for Washington to spend on a premier off-ball linebacker free agent, but Edwards would be a huge addition for this Commanders defense.
Edwards was finally trusted with a true three-down role starting in Week 8 of 2021, and since then, his 88.5 grade is the top mark among off-ball linebackers. Edwards was one of just four linebackers in 2022 to earn grades above 75.0 in both run defense and coverage, and the former undrafted free agent in 2019 may still not have a super strong market this offseason with just 1.5 seasons as an every-down starter. All evidence we have thus far indicates he can continue to play at an extremely high level going forward, and he deserves a strong multi-year deal that reflects that.
Edwards playing inside with Davis on the outside would give the Commanders a pair of athletic linebackers behind their outstanding defensive line. For Washington, it would be all about the cost. With the Eagles needing to pay quarterback Jalen Hurts, it remains to be seen how big of a priority Edwards will be in the offseason.