The 2022 Washington Football Team offseason — with big decisions pending involving high-profile free agents, glaring team needs, gobs of cap space, and limited draft picks — is upon us. Hopefully, it goes better than the 2021 Washington regular season, which unraveled epically the day after Christmas. Ron Rivera’s crew still had an outside, but realistic, chance at the playoffs heading into Week 16.
But that hope was extinguished in an embarrassing fashion: a six-touchdown drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys in a prime-time game that featured one of Washington’s best players (Jonathan Allen) taking a swing at another of Washington’s best players (Daron Payne). Washington will now quickly transition into making sure 2022 goes better than 2021. Rivera probably needs to show real improvement or his seat will quickly get hot.
Washington Football Team 2022 Offseason Preview
The easiest — and most sustainable — way for Washington to improve its record is to improve its quarterback room. Rivera gambled that Ryan Fitzpatrick would have some magic left at age 39, but that bet became a loser just 16 offensive snaps into the season. Fitzpatrick suffered a year-ending hip injury in his WFT debut. That meant Washington had to again roll with Taylor Heinicke, who had a December to forget.
In Washington’s most important games, Heinicke was exposed as an NFL backup who was starting only out of necessity. It’s time for Washington — either through free agency, trade, or the draft — to find a real quarterback around whom to build. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, particularly this offseason.
In defense of Heinicke, Washington has lacked depth in the talent around him. Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Logan Thomas, and J.D. McKissic are a talented group, but the depth beyond that is a concern.
However, it was the struggles of the defense that will have really disappointed Washington this season. They ranked 28th in scoring defense and were among the worst against the pass this season. Given the resources invested on that side of the ball, it presents a major concern for Washington heading into this offseason.
Washington has $59.7 million in projected cap space
Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 9)
Finances will not be an issue for Washington this offseason. The franchise-without-a-name can compete for any player it wants. Only three teams are projected to have more cap space in 2022: The Dolphins ($75.0 million), Chargers ($71.6 million), and Jaguars ($70.7 million).
And that number will assuredly grow between now and March 16. General manager Martin Mayhew can clear out nearly $25 million simply by cutting guard Ereck Flowers (who played well), safety Landon Collins (who did not), and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis.
Washington’s pending free agents
A big reason Washington might keep Flowers at a $10 million base salary in 2022 is that the franchise is in real danger of losing its other high-priced guard. Barring an extension in the next two months, Brandon Scherff will finally hit the open market in 2022. Washington has paid him nearly $67 million in his seven-year career — half of which came in the last two seasons due to the franchise tag.
Scherff will take a pay cut no matter where he signs, but it’s understandable if he’s ready for a change after five losing seasons in seven years. It looked like they were set to see Charles Leno Jr. also leave in free agency, but they got an extension done just before the end of the season. Other Washington UFAs of note: Fitzpatrick, running back J.D. McKissic, linebacker Jon Bostic, and defensive back Bobby McCain.
How do Washington’s free agents rank among the best available in 2022? Be sure out our list of top free agents available at each position to find out.
Washington’s team needs
We’ve already discussed quarterback at length. The offseason will be a failure if Mayhew cannot find a real upgrade. But that’s far from Washington’s only concern. The Football Team will need to fortify its offensive line and add a big-bodied receiver.
They will also need to significantly address one of the worst pass defenses in football. Their defensive front is good, but both of the levels behind them need to be upgraded. The performance of Landon collins has been a real concern and if they move on from him then secondary becomes an increased concern.
Washington’s top five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason
- Offensive line
- Wide receiver
Washington’s 2022 NFL Draft picks
While Washington has all kinds of cap space, the cupboard is relatively bare in the draft. Washington won too many games for a super-premium first-rounder and is not expected to be awarded compensatory picks. Here’s how Washington’s 2022 NFL Draft picks currently stand according to the draft order:
- Round 1
- Round 2
- Round 3
- Round 4
- Round 6
- Round 7