Initial shockwaves of the first week of NFL free agency have now passed. We’ve reached low tide, where big blockbuster moves will be fewer and further between.
The Washington Commanders did make their splash during the first week of the new league season, though, letting go of some seasoned veterans, re-signing a few proven talents, and of course, bringing in their new QB1 in Carson Wentz. In total, Washington has re-signed nine players, released six, and brought in two fresh faces over the course of free agency thus far.
With that in mind, there are a few position groups in which the Commanders face a glaring lack of depth. Here are five players who have a real opportunity—if not a requirement—to step up for Washington in 2022 after their free agency flurry:
G Wes Schweitzer
With the departure of starting offensive guards Brandon Scherff and Ereck Flowers this offseason, Washington’s depth on the offensive line took a hit. They signed Andrew Norwell to plug one hole at guard, but that still leaves an entire side of the offensive line desperate for depth. In comes Wes Schweitzer.
You could argue that right tackle Sam Cosmi, who had a productive rookie campaign in 2021, would be of more focus on the right side of the offensive line. While that’s true, it’ll likely be Schweitzer to fill in for Scherff at right guard. Scherff missed six starts at RG last year, giving Schweitzer an opportunity he ultimately capitalized on. He’ll need to do much of the same in 2022 if Carson Wentz wants to enjoy more than 1.5 seconds to get rid of the ball.
S Bobby McCain
No Landon Collins, no Deshazor Everett—yeah, the Commanders will be a bit thin at safety to start 2022, should they not sign or draft someone before Week 1. Their current depth chart at the position is Jeremy Reaves, Kam Curl, Darrick Forrest, and finally McCain.
McCain, 28, appeared in all 17 games for Washington last season and, like virtually the entire secondary, saw improvement over the latter half of the season. He led the Commanders with four interceptions, complemented by career-highs in tackles (63) and passes defended (nine). His late-season burst was enough for the club to re-sign him to a two-year extension.
McCain projects to start at free safety with the younger Curl starting at strong safety. Kurl will also be under a microscope, but given McCain’s fresh new deal, he will be a key secondary piece in 2022. If he underperforms, Washington’s entire secondary will feel the reverberations.
DT Daniel Wise
You might be asking yourself: WHO? That’s fair. Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis are gone, making defensive tackle the third position group to lose depth over the course of free agency. Behind the likes of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, Washington’s interior defensive line is pretty sparse.
The front office noticed this, which is why they decided to ink the 26-year-old Wise to an unspecified extension last week. A steady practice squad piece, Wise appeared in just six games for the Commanders last year, amassing 10 total tackles. Now that Settle and Ioannidis aren’t around, Wise will likely be elevated to the active roster.
He was placed on IR just before Christmas last year after sustaining a knee injury, so Washington will hope he can stay healthy to stabilize their D-line behind proven veterans. If Wise doesn’t prove himself during preseason and over the first few weeks of the regular season, the Commanders IDL would almost entirely hinge on Payne and Allen’s availability.
LB Jamin Davis
There’s no way around it: Davis’ rookie year was disappointing for a 19th overall pick. Though he did pick up the pace over the course of the last few weeks of the season, Davis must prove himself worthy of a starting linebacker role during his sophomore campaign.
Washington hasn’t yet added a linebacker in free agency, leaving Davis and Cole Holcomb to be the workhorses of the unit in 2022. Holcomb was solid in 2021 as he led the team in tackles, so the club will expect that kind of production from him this season. It’s Davis, though, who will be under close watch, meaning his tenure as a Commander could very well be impacted by his production this year.
TE John Bates
Behind Logan Thomas, Washington’s TE2 has departed as Ricky Seals-Jones signed a deal with the Giants in free agency. Thomas missed 11 games last year with both a hamstring problem and a torn ACL suffered in Week 13. There’s no way to predict how healthy Thomas will be in 2022, but should he miss more time, the Commanders will have to turn to the 24-year-old Bates in his place.
Bates started in eight games last season in D.C., surprising fans with his production. He totaled 20 catches for 249 yards and one touchdown for the Burgundy & Gold. His 12.5 yards per reception were also encouraging. Even if Thomas is able to play out the entire 2022 season, Bates could be utilized as another target on shorter routes for Carson Wentz.