Commanders cut Carson Wentz as team goes into scouting combine with unanswered questions

A year ago, the Washington Commanders used the NFL scouting combine to do a deep dive on quarterback Carson Wentz. Before trading for the quarterback weeks later, coach Ron Rivera sat in a suite at Lucas Oil Stadium and closely reviewed the signal-caller’s tape. Talks soon heated up with the Indianapolis Colts.

This time around, Rivera and Co. enter the event with an already set plan at quarterback in second-year prospect Sam Howell.

And with Wentz — released Monday, along with safety Bobby McCain — no longer on the roster. 

The Commanders cut Wentz on the eve of the combine, which starts Tuesday and runs through the weekend in Indianapolis. The move was a formality as Wentz’s release clears more than $26 million in cap space and had been long expected after a disastrous 2022 in which the 30-year-old went 2-5 as a starter. 

Howell is now Plan A for Washington, but Washington is still expected to add at quarterback — meaning the team’s brass will likely use this week to do due diligence on the incoming rookie class of signal-callers.

Rivera has said he would like to add a veteran quarterback to the roster who could push Howell in training camp and then mentor the 2022 fifth-rounder if Howell wins the job. But taking another late-round flyer on a quarterback — similar to last year’s selection of Howell — could make sense.

“If you are looking for somebody to kind of bring in, and, again, try to find somebody maybe not high in the draft, but a little bit later on, the one that intrigues me … (is) the UCLA kid, Dorian Thompson-Robinson,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said, referring to the 6-foot-1, five-year starter for the Bruins. “He is kind of that backup that can get you out of games and can run around and make plays. He is ultra-twitched up. He has a live arm.”

The topic of quarterback is sure to come up when Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew meet with the media on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Beyond that, here are some items of interest as it relates to Washington at the combine.

Kam Curl contract future: Rivera and Mayhew were cagey when last asked if the Commanders would be open to a possible contract extension with their talented safety, who is set to enter the final year of his rookie-scale contract in 2023. But Monday’s release of McCain — a veteran who was moved to slot cornerback midway through last year — figures to highlight that topic even more. 

Curl’s dad, meanwhile, created a stir on social media last month when he suggested that his son sign for nothing less than $80 million over four years. The tweet caused Greg Curl to clarify he wasn’t speaking directly for his son, while Kam Curl later tweeted to fans: “Get up out my pockets.”

Chase Young’s fifth-year option: One of the more interesting nuggets from Rivera’s radio row interviews in the lead-up to the Super Bowl earlier this month was his suggestion that Washington might decline edge rusher Chase Young’s fifth-year option. Rivera said such a move could provide Young — who has 1½ sacks in the last two years and has battled a significant knee injury — with motivation, similar to how defensive tackle Daron Payne balled out in light of not getting a contract extension last summer. 

But would Washington really be willing to put Young in such a position? Declining the option, worth nearly $17.5 million, would put Young, edge rusher Montez Sweat and potentially Payne — who is expected to be given the franchise tag, a source said — all in the final year of their contracts next season. Rivera will have to clarify whether that’s a risk the Commanders are willing to take. The team has until May to make a decision.

Ownership uncertainty: With owner Dan Snyder exploring a sale, Rivera is almost sure to be asked about the future of the franchise. One question that seemingly hasn’t been answered: Has the coach met with any of the ownership groups who have toured the team’s facilities? Rivera may not be willing to answer, but it’s an interesting angle since Broncos coach Sean Payton revealed earlier this month that ownership groups interested in buying the Commanders reached out to gauge his interest in coaching the franchise. 

Speaking of which, Rivera hasn’t publicly responded to Payton’s comments — and the topic wasn’t brought up when the coach spoke to reporters at offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s press conference last week. 

Loaded running back draft class: Let’s focus on the actual draft, for a second. Experts have praised this year’s crop of running backs— with Jeremiah, in particular, comparing Texas’ Bijan Robinson to Giants rusher Saquon Barkley. The Commanders hold the 16th overall pick, and with so many other needs on the roster — namely at cornerback and along the offensive line — it would be surprising to see the team take Robinson.

But Rivera has talked about the importance of rushing the ball — even though he backed off last week of Mayhew’s premise of needing to have a 2-to-1 run-to-pass ratio. The coach said Mayhew’s comments, made at a season-ending press conference, applied to end-of-game scenarios. Still, Washington values its rushing attack. Starter Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson both ended the season banged up, and Gibson is entering the final year of his deal. In a deep class, adding another back might be worth exploring. 

Source: WT