INDIANAPOLIS — To try and acquire a veteran quarterback, the Washington Commanders have started to lay what Ron Rivera calls “the minimal groundwork.” They’ve called teams to check in on possible targets — expressing their interest and reminding them they have “potential” to get a deal done with draft picks, he says.
The problem: Rivera and Co. are still unsure which of these guys are actually available.
“We’re just waiting to hear what’s going to happen,” he says.
With two weeks until free agency begins, Rivera said Tuesday there’s “no clarity” to whether big-named quarterbacks could actually be had in the coming weeks. For months, speculation has stirred over the futures of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, but neither quarterback has yet to demand out of their situation. Other high-profile veterans like Las Vegas’ Derek Carr and Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins are looking more likely to stay with their current teams.
So far, the market has hardly moved. San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo, perhaps the most obvious trade candidate, has yet to be dealt—and reports indicated Tuesday that the quarterback is set to undergo shoulder surgery that could keep him out until July. Colts general manager Chris Ballard, meanwhile, told reporters that the team is still undecided on starter Carson Wentz.
Now factor in the less than exciting incoming rookie quarterback draft class, the teams in need of a quarterback could end up disappointed.
“This year, there’s not much available,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians told ESPN.
The Buccaneers, like the Commanders, are in need of a new starter thanks to Tom Brady’s retirement. Looking at the landscape, Arians told multiple outlets he was skeptical that any of the oft-rumored quarterbacks would actually be moved. His reasoning: Why would a team be willing to move on without a clear upgrade available?
“I don’t see it,” Arians said. “As a coach, I’d be really pissed if you traded my guy.”
That type of thinking is why most expect the Seahawks to be unwilling to part with Wilson. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is 70, so what’s the incentive for him to part with a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Wilson? And despite a down year with Wilson in 2021, Seattle would have no clear path to contend without Wilson unless it also got another top quarterback in the deal. (Wilson, too, has poured cold water on playing for the Commanders).
Situations differ by team, of course. San Francisco has Trey Lance waiting in the wings, so Garoppolo will likely be moved. And on Tuesday, Ballard sounded more than ready to move on from Wentz — offering no commitment the starter would be back next season. “Ultimately, we will make the decision that we think is best, both in the short and the long-term,” Ballard said.
But if the Colts do decide to part with Wentz, Indianapolis will still have to find a replacement — making them another team in the hunt for a new quarterback.
Rivera said if the Commanders have to settle for an option that isn’t as splashy — he said he remained comfortable with the idea of playing a rookie quarterback if need be — he said he thinks Washington would still be in a position to succeed with a mid-tier level quarterback.
“Oh I believe you can,” Rivera said. “I believe you can win. A quarterback of that caliber, it helps you. … Whichever route we take, just know that we are going to fortify the other parts (of the roster).”
As for the potential cost of what it would take to land a quarterback, Rivera’s tone was markedly different from a year ago. Whereas last year Rivera stressed the need to protect future draft capital and hang on to core players, this year he said: “Whatever you pay, that’s what you think the value is.”
A year ago, Washington offered only a first-round and a third-round pick for Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. The Rams swooped in instead, landing Stafford for two first-rounders, a third and quarterback Jared Goff. The move paved the way for the Rams to win last month’s Super Bowl.
The Stafford package doesn’t have much of an impact on negotiations this time around, Rivera said.
“Does anybody really care what was traded for Matthew Stafford last year?” Rivera said. “No.”