Taylor Heinicke will head into the offseason with an uncertain future in Washington

Whether some want to admit it or not, Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke made himself a lot of money in 2022. In leading Washington to a 5-3-1 record in his nine starts, Heinicke proved yet again that he could lead an NFL offense.

Now, this isn’t about whether Heinicke is Washington’s future quarterback. It’s clear he isn’t. Heinicke has limitations that will always keep him from being a permanent starting quarterback. Still, for an NFL team looking for a bridge QB, insurance for a young quarterback, or a high-quality backup, he will have multiple options.

The question is, are the Commanders an option for Heinicke in 2023?

Heinicke replaced Carson Wentz in the starting lineup in Week 7 and energized the offense. However, much like last season, the offense sputtered, and this time around, head coach Ron Rivera turned back to Wentz once he was healthy. While Rivera’s reasoning made sense, it proved to be a bad move as Wentz had perhaps the NFL’s worst quarterback performance this season in a playoff-eliminating loss to the Browns. The fans at FedEx Field were chanting for Heinicke after Wentz’s second pass attempt — which was intercepted.

Rivera was going to turn back to Heinicke for the season finale against the Cowboys, but after a talk with Heinicke and others, Rivera gave rookie Sam Howell the start. Rivera indicated he planned to start Heinicke and let Howell play in the second half.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, it was Heinicke who suggested to Rivera to give Howell the entire game.

That’s a smart move from Heinicke, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March. There’s no need for him to play again this season.

What is his future in Washington?

Reporters asked Rivera about Heinicke’s long-term options with the Commanders.

“Well, we’ll get into what we want to do going forward with personnel once the season’s over,” Rivera said. “But my conversation with him was terrific. He’s a heck of a young man, and he really helped me through this in terms of decision-making.”

Heinicke is beloved in Washington. Not only is he popular with his teammates, but the coaches and fans, too. Heinicke’s story is a good one, and he is probably the most relatable NFL player you’ll ever see.

What does Heinicke think about his future with the Commanders?

“I haven’t really thought about it lately, but if it is the last game, it’s going to be a little emotional,” Heinicke said, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post. “It’s been a hard-fought 2½ years here, and I made some great memories. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top with the things we wanted to do. But there was lots of good to look back at.”

It seems at times that Rivera has almost taken Heinicke for granted. Could you imagine Washington’s record without Heinicke over the past two seasons?

Does Heinicke want to return? Only he knows that, and he may be ready to move on, especially after being benched for Wentz and the team turning back to him only after Wentz failed miserably.

The Commanders should want Heinicke back. They need to address the quarterback position — again — but you know what you have in Heinicke. A terrific backup who can win you multiple games and is a strong presence in the locker room. Culture, right?

There’s one school of thought that Heinicke’s popularity with fans will always be a problem. There’s truth in that, but Rivera and management cannot allow fans to dictate roster management. If you go out and acquire a veteran like Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo, you should let Heinicke walk. However, if you plan on bringing in a rookie or want Howell to compete for the position in 2023, Heinicke should be re-signed.

Defensive tackle Daron Payne is the most significant free agent, but Heinicke’s situation will be the most intriguing storyline of the offseason outside of a potential new owner.

Regardless of the outcome, Heinicke has earned himself a payday. If Chase Daniel can make millions in the NFL, Heinicke can — and will.

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire