The Commanders cut Carson Wentz and Bobby McCain, clearing cap space


The Washington Commanders released quarterback Carson Wentz and defensive back Bobby McCain on Monday, saving about $29 million in salary cap space just weeks before the start of free agency and making way for the team’s talent.

Although the two moves were expected, they signaled the end of a short period in Washington. Wentz, who the team acquired in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts last year, started just seven games because of a finger injury. The Commanders were 2-4 when he had surgery and Taylor Heinicke took over.

Wentz returned as the starter in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns which all but sealed his future. Washington was 7-7-1 when Wentz took over for Heinicke and threw three and zero interceptions in the loss that knocked Washington out of the playoffs.

Picks, sacks and Carson Wentz’s promotion to an uncertain future

As part of their Wentz trade, the Commanders swapped a 2022 second-round pick with the Colts and offered a 2022 third-round pick and a 2023 third-round pick. Wentz has only one year of guaranteed money left on his contract, so Washington was able to part ways without taking on dead money — or money that would count against its cap — after one season.

For the first time in his career, Wentz will be a free agent. This offseason, he will be looking for his fourth team in four seasons, the fall of the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft.

With Heinicke set to hit free agency again, the Commanders will, at least for now, turn to Sam Howell, a fifth-round pick in 2022 who is the team’s only quarterback on the books for 2023. Howell will enter camp as planned. A starter, but Coach Ron Rivera has indicated he hopes to add another veteran at the position, and new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy admits there is a need for competition in the quarterback room.

“I was fired up about the opportunity to get to know the kid,” Bieniemy said of Howell. “But more than anything, you always want to create competition. You want to make sure we’re getting the best out of the people in that particular position. “

What to expect from Eric Bieniemy’s Commanders offense

McCain’s departure is largely due to the emergence of Darrick Forrest, a 2021 fifth-round pick who has proven to be a key part of the Commanders’ secondary in 2022 after playing mostly on special teams as a player. Forrest recorded a team-high four tackles, as well as two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 88 tackles.

McCain’s play at free safety, along with the work of Benjamin St-Juste at cornerback, led Washington to switch McCain to the slot as the third safety in Washington’s “Buffalo” nickel package. McCain’s memory has given the team flexibility in how it uses its defensive backs, and as Washington reshapes its secondary, adding more positional flexibility will be a priority.

The Commanders have long valued defenders who can play multiple roles and can change during a game or even a series — players such as safety Kam Curl, who last season played as a linebacker, and cornerbacks. Kendall Fuller, who can play inside and outside. .

The 2023 draft class is very deep in defensive talent, and some analysts project Washington will add a running back in the first round. But the team’s needs have expanded to many areas, including offensive line, tight end, linebacker and, of course, quarterback.

For Rivera and the coaching staff, the work begins in earnest this week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis — the same place Washington decided to trade Wentz a year ago.

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