Why the Commanders would be foolish to trade Taylor Heinicke

It won’t rank highly given Carson Wentz’s standing amongst the national media, but the Washington Commanders‘ quarterback room is suddenly one of the deepest in the NFL following the selection of Sam Howell in the fifth round.

The hope is Howell will eventually morph into a franchise quarterback. For now, however, all of Washington’s eggs are in the Wentz basket.

While the 29-year-old has no guaranteed money remaining after 2022 — meaning they could save over $26 million in cap space next year without accruing any dead money — nobody’s rooting for this to be a failed one-year experiment.

Of course, the selection of Howell has fans speculating whether the North Carolina product could supplant Taylor Heinicke as Wentz’s backup. If so, then why not cash in on Heinicke and trade him to a quarterback-needy team, right?

We saw the idea being floated on Twitter after CJ Beathard, Trevor Lawrence’s backup in Jacksonville, was carted off the field at OTAs practice with a groin injury. The Jaguars lucked out, as Beathard’s injury likely won’t require surgery and isn’t “overly serious,” according to NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport.

Here’s why the Commanders should keep Taylor Heinicke for 2022.

While the idea of unloading Heinicke to expedite Howell’s ascension to the backup role sounds great in theory, it’s probably a year too early. The chances the former Tar Heel is ready to assume a full-time backup role are extremely thin. With Heinicke on the roster, there’s no need to rush Howell’s development. It’d be in his best interest, and the Commanders’, if the rookie took a de facto redshirt year.

Needless to say this would be moot if Howell shocks the world and leapfrogs Heinicke on the depth chart. Assuming that doesn’t happen, though, Washington would be smart to hold onto the fan favorite QB for another season.

We’d argue the Carson Wentz injury is overblown, but the Commanders’ incumbent starter does have a tendency to get dinged up. Despite not missing a start due to injury since 2018 (he was benched for the final four games in 2020), he did give Indianapolis multiple scares last season.

In training camp, Wentz suffered a foot injury and subsequently underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment from his foot. Luckily for the Colts, he beat the expected timetable and recovered in time for Week 1 of the regular season.

A few weeks later, though, Wentz suffered two separate ankle sprains after an awkward-looking sack against the Rams in Week 3. The QB didn’t miss any time, but he couldn’t finish the game, which was very much there for the taking for the Colts, who were forced to turn to 2020 fourth-round pick Jacob Eason.

On one of his first dropbacks, Eason threw an ugly interception that put the game on ice for the Rams. We just don’t need a similar situation unfolding this year with Howell when Heinicke is more than capable of coming in cold off the bench and playing hero, or at least calming the storm while Wentz recovers.

The same cannot be said for Howell, at least not this early into his career. Keep Heinicke and let Howell soak up knowledge from the sidelines.

 

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