How Washington’s QB situation affects its ability to land top free agent WRs

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Matt Weyrich
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How WFT's QB situation affects its ability to land top WRs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Football Team has an opportunity this offseason to build on the success they enjoyed in 2020 by adding some pieces to the offensive side of their roster as a complement to the young defense that propelled the franchise to its first playoff berth in five years.

One of the most glaring needs for Washington is at wide receiver. Terry McLaurin has emerged as one of the NFL’s best young ball catchers, but the team doesn’t have obvious candidates to suit up and play opposite him next season. Luckily for Washington, there are many talented receivers who will hit the market as free agents once the league calendar flips: Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, Will Fuller, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Corey Davis, A.J. Green and Marvin Jones just to name a few.

Spotrac puts Washington at about $42.4 million below the salary cap for 2021, giving the team the sixth-most cap space in the NFL. Even though that should give Ron Rivera and Co. the ability to be among the highest bidders for those top wide receivers, the uncertainty surrounding Washington’s quarterback situation could prove detrimental if the team doesn’t sort things out before free agency begins.

Right now, Washington’s only two quarterbacks under contract for next season are Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke. Smith, who recently took a shot at the organization for not believing in him during his two-year recovery process, is signed through 2022 but showed limitations in his game last year particularly in terms of his mobility. While Heinicke starred in Washington’s Wild Card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he’s approaching his 28th birthday and has just two starts in his NFL career.

Players such as Robinson and Golladay may be inclined to choose other teams with more stability at quarterback. NBC Sports Washington’s Pete Hailey sat down with colleagues JP Finlay and Mitch Tischler and explained that he believes Washington’s quarterback options on the trade market and in free agency wouldn’t push the needle all that much, either.

“I don’t know if, aside from a Deshaun Watson or Derek Carr, whatever quarterback Washington ends up with would be that attractive,” Hailey said. “Sure, it would be nice [to solve the QB situation soon] but I don’t think it’s a huge hurry because unless they land someone we’re not expecting, it’s not like the guys they will land are going to be super enticing and someone you wanna hop on a jet for to go play with.”

If Washington can’t pry Watson or Carr away from their respective teams, the best available options include Jacoby Brissett, Mitchell Trubisky, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Tyrod Taylor. Marcus Mariota and Sam Darnold stand out as the top trade candidates.

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However, Hailey received some push back from Finlay. The Washington Football insider thinks only Robinson would have the bargaining power to be that choosey about his landing spot.

“Let’s be clear about this: The only receiver on the market who might have that kind of power to pick where he goes based on the quarterback is Robinson,” Finlay said. “And the Bears might [franchise] tag and trade him anyway so he’ll have less say in this thing. You know what’s gonna matter the most in free agency? Cash money.”

Tischler says Washington will be an attractive suitor based on its defense alone.

“You can have the QB and that guy will help draw the other free agents or you can have the other free agents, which helps draw the QB,” Tischler said. “Either way, everyone knows Washington has a great defense that is settling into its prime, is able to attack the quarterback, create turnovers and be dominant. And so I think for that reason, it’s an attractive spot for free agents to come.”