Commanders free-agency guide: Keepers, targets and what happens with Kam Curl?


Expect the Washington Commanders to keep everyone busy throughout free agency.

We can be honest: Washington’s roster positionally needs — checks notes — almost everything. Other than defensive tackle, that’s not hyperbole. There are far more free agents (over 20) than returning starters from last year’s 4-13 team. Transactions galore are on tap.

The Commanders, under general manager Adam Peters and head coach Dan Quinn, have the cap space — a league-high $80.5 million as of Thursday after releasing three of last season’s Week 1 starters — to address whichever holes are desired.

Expect prudent spending rather than mimicking the excessive early years of the Dan Snyder era. However, as long as the players’ age fits Washington’s fixer-upper timeline and their vibe meets the desired tone-setting, there could be some splash as it dives into free agency. Perhaps the basketball guys in the building note NBA front-office strategy by using their cap space to take on another team’s bad contract with draft picks attached.

Long-term help will come in next month’s NFL Draft. The Commanders have nine selections and are expected to take a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. The veteran portion of transaction season comes first.

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Internal free agents

Washington will keep some of its free agents. By sheer roster math, it has no choice. That doesn’t mean breaking the bank for more prominent names or rushing to retain others. Given its specific circumstances, losing cornerback Kendall Fuller and wide receiver Curtis Samuel wouldn’t be surprising. The same is valid for four-year starting safety Kamren Curl.

The departure of the 2020 seventh-round pick with an aggressive bent would shock many Washington fans. For them, Curl’s market may be eye-opening. Would Peters agree to terms north of $10 million annually for a good safety with zero interceptions since his rookie season in a buyer’s market with teams spending less at the position? The Commanders could give more reps to 2023 second-round pick Quan Martin and find a valuable signing in free agency.

As for who stays, keep watch on swing tackle Cornelius Lucas. The effective lineman would have a legitimate shot at opening the season starting at left tackle, allowing the coaches to bring a Day 2 rookie selection along at their optimum pace. Quinn and his staff see why Pro Bowl special teams ace Jeremy Reaves became a favorite of fans, teammates and coaches.

Jacoby Brissett won’t lack options as one of the NFL’s top backup quarterbacks or spot starters. The Commanders have Sam Howell to compete against or aid another burgeoning passer, but a veteran quarterback might be the better mentor. Brissett’s market price is likely in range with last year’s $8 million salary.

External free agents

Notes on potential targets with blurbs from The Athletic’s top 150 free-agent list, including former two-time NFL general manager Randy Mueller. (Ages as of Sept. 5.)

Washington’s entire quarterback and roster plan would be turned upside down with a massive Kirk Cousins signing, followed by a likely trade out of the second selection for a haul of picks and possibly players. Such bold action would go against the franchise’s public roster-building stance but assist in breaking a seven-year streak of losing seasons for new ownership looking to recharge the ticket-buying fan base.

Bryce Huff, Edge, 26

Spending some of that significant salary-cap space makes sense at this premium position. The Commanders need bodies at both defensive end spots. Four rising second-year defenders, including KJ Henry, remain from the 2023 active squad. Meanwhile, the incoming draft class is light on edge talent.

Huff finished among league leaders with 10 sacks and a 21.3 pressure rate that was only exceeded by Myles Garrett and Micah Parsons. Tacking on a dynamic pass rusher with Jonathan Allen and fellow Pro Bowl tackle Daron Payne is the best chance to maximize their interior talents and raise the defensive level. Pro Football Focus projects a three-year, $50 million contract with $35 million guaranteed for Huff.

“Huff is a role player and a pass-rush specialist, but he has been very productive. He gets off the ball and under blocks as a pass rusher with incredible upfield burst. His pressure rate is the best in this free-agent class. His play against the run is a work in progress and will have to improve for him to become a full-time player. The Jets — who have already spent significant money and draft capital on the D-line — might struggle to afford him.” — Mueller

Dorance Armstrong, DE, 27

Expect Washington to sign players connected to Quinn, Peters and others. That already happened with offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. Having several familiar faces around, within reason, can help spread your message in the building — especially if they are helpful on the field.

“Armstrong would get much more attention if the Cowboys didn’t already have Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and Sam Williams. He is a good player, finishing second on the team in sacks each of the last two seasons (8.5 in 2022, 7.5 in 2023) despite making only six total starts. His price tag will likely be too high for Dallas.” — Jon Machota

Noah Brown, WR, 28

Here’s a No. 3-type receiver with the desired height (6-foot-2) and production when called upon (76 receptions since 2022) who became a weapon with C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans last season.

“Known primarily for his blocking, Brown posted a career-high 567 receiving yards in just 10 games in 2023, averaging 17.2 yards per catch (fourth best among all players with at least 30 receptions). His skill set should interest teams that need a quality third or fourth receiver.” — David DeChant

Jeremy Chinn, S, 26

The hybrid safety/linebacker had over 100 tackles in his first two seasons and led the league with two defensive touchdowns as a rookie. Then injuries curtailed Chinn’s recent production, and the 2020 second-rounder was a poor fit in Carolina’s scheme last season.

“Don’t be discouraged by the lack of numbers. Chinn can run, tackle and close in coverage. He has the range of a free safety but hits like a Will ‘backer. He injured his quad and started only eight games in 2023. The runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 is a better player than the numbers show.” — Mueller

Mitch Morse, C, 32

Pairing a young quarterback and center isn’t ideal for line calls, but that’s the situation Washington faces for now, with only 2023 third-round pick Ricky Stromberg returning from last season’s Week 1 depth chart. Morse, who worked with Washington O-line coach Bobby Johnson in Buffalo, and 2022 Pro Bowler Tyler Biadasz have ties with the new staff.

“Morse is available only because of money, as the Bills needed cap room and had to release him. He still plays with balance — which allows him to recover — and solid, consistent technique. His aggressive nature can get him in trouble at times in pass protection, but he’s a good player and would be a viable starting center for many teams.” — Mueller

Azeez Al-Shaair, LB, 27

Washington has Jamin Davis returning, but starter Cody Barton and reserves Khaleke Hudson and David Mayo are free agents.

“The third linebacker behind Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw with the 49ers, Al-Shaair followed Ran Carthon to Tennessee last offseason on a one-year deal and finished fifth in the NFL with 163 tackles. He can improve his coverage awareness, but he’s a starting-caliber player who could still have upside.” — DeChant

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Josh Reynolds, WR, 29

Part of Detroit’s explosive passing attack, Reynolds had 608 yards and five touchdowns on 40 receptions amid a deep group of targets. The 6-foot-2 receiver would be a solid complement to Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson.

“Don’t dismiss Reynolds because of his key drops in the NFC Championship Game — per PFF, he had only three drops during the whole regular season. He has size and a solid catch radius and made big grabs for his team all season long. He is physical, fighting through contact and drawing his share of pass interference calls. His speed is not elite, but he has the body control to get in and out of breaks very well for a big man. He should be a solid No. 2 WR in the league.” — Mueller

Graham Glasgow, G, 32

Jonah Jackson is the Lions’ free-agent guard most mentioned in such conversations. Glasgow, Detroit’s other starter, impressed in the run game for the NFC North champions, has experience across the line and will cost half as much.

Dalton Risner, G, 29

“Risner hit the open market last offseason and was not as sought after as he hoped. He signed with Minnesota three weeks into September and became a starter at left guard in Week 7. Pass protection is his strength. The Vikings are likely to want Risner back, but they won’t be the only team interested.” — Alec Lewis

Keisean Nixon, CB/KR, 27

Say Washington moves Benjamin St-Juste from the slot back outside if Fuller goes and uses Martin more on the back end without Curl, and it seeks a returner to replace Antonio Gibson …

“The best nickel defender in this class, Nixon has a knack for reading and reacting to routes and diagnosing plays. He has catch-up burst to run with crossers and deeper routes. Some might view him as a starter, but at minimum, he should be a solid third cornerback/nickel. He also brings special teams value, earning first-team All-Pro honors as a kick returner in 2022 and 2023.” — Mueller

Zack Moss, RB, 26

The running back market has stellar options, which may depress salaries for lower-tier candidates such as Moss. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder showed he could shoulder the load when Jonathan Taylor missed games for the Indianapolis Colts last season. Not a burner, but Moss forces missed tackles and caught 27 passes in 2023.

Jayron Kearse, S, 30

Kearse was a consistent starter in Dallas over the past three seasons. Signing him to a short-term contract would help defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. implement his plans with an otherwise youthful secondary.

Others: QB Sam Darnold, QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Devin Singletary, WR Tyler Boyd, TE Mike Gesicki, TE Colby Parkinson, C Tyler Biadasz, G Jon Feliciano, DE Dante Fowler Jr., DE Tyquan Lewis, LB Devin White, CB Michael Davis, CB Jourdan Lewis, S Geno Stone.

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(Photo of Kamren Curl: Daniel Kucin Jr. / Associated Press)





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