Commanders enter offseason with ownership uncertainty

Must read

ASHBURN — Discussing his free agency options, Daron Payne doesn’t seem to have a preference for where he plays next season. “I just want what I earned,” he said. And this past season, the Washington Commanders defensive tackle appeared to earn a lot. 

With his contract set to expire in March, Payne ended the 2022 season with a career-high 11½ sacks — the most by a Washington interior defensive lineman since Dave Butz in 1983.

“You know what I want, man,” Payne said. “It’s self-explanatory.” 

To keep Payne, the Commanders will have to open up the checkbook. But who will be signing those checks is a topic even more relevant. As players cleaned out their lockers Monday, a day after Sunday’s 26-6 season finale win over the Dallas Cowboys to finish 8-8-1, Washington’s ownership uncertainty clouded what figures to be a vital offseason for the franchise. 

NFL players are used to the attrition that comes with being in the league. Some will leave and others will enter. Coaches and executives come and go. But sweeping changes to ownership are much more uncommon. 

By the time players return to the facility to begin offseason workouts, a new owner could very well be in place. But until then, with owner Dan Snyder exploring a sale, the Commanders are essentially in limbo. 

“When you have a change — new ownership or new coaching — that changes everything,” wide receiver Terry McLaurin said, “Because, I’m going to be honest, it’s a business and when new people come in, they don’t really have allegiance to you. That goes for me as well.”

Before a new owner potentially takes over, one of the main questions the Commanders face is just how active will the team will be if these are Snyder’s final few months.  

Snyder, a source said, was not at Sunday’s win over Dallas, though co-owner and wife Tanya Snyder attended. Last week, coach Ron Rivera said he believed he has full leeway to make any necessary changes — but added that he had yet to meet with the Snyders to discuss the offseason. 

Rivera said after Sunday’s game he would use the next week to evaluate whether any shakeups to his coaching staff are necessary.

Though Scott Turner signed a contract extension last offseason, the Washington offensive coordinator has faced increased scrutiny in recent weeks as the Commanders’ offense regressed.

In three years, Turner’s units have ranked 32nd, 21st and 28th in offensive DVOA, a Football Outsiders metric that measures efficiency — leading to widespread criticism, including from the wife of tight end Logan Thomas. In an Instagram post, Brandie Thomas appeared to take issue with Turner over the weekend for her husband’s lack of red-zone targets — writing “you think if you had weapons, you’d utilize them?”

“She can speak for herself,” Logan Thomas said Monday, later adding, “She knows I do a good job in the red zone scoring points. That’s really where it comes from, from a standpoint of love for me, so I got nothing but love for her and respect.” 

Elsewhere, practically every player interviewed in Washington’s locker room said they wouldn’t be concerned this offseason about a potential owner change. Some, after all, had already been through the process before. Former Carolina owner Jerry Richardson sold his team to billionaire David Tepper in 2018 — a year in which Tyler Larsen, Curtis Samuel, Trai Turner and a few other Commanders played for the Panthers. 

Larsen said the uncertainty of Carolina’s situation at the time “didn’t really change much” for players, and he credited Rivera for providing stability. Turner, Washington’s starting right guard, also noted how Rivera guided Carolina through a turbulent time. 

“As much as it affects you, you have no say into anything,” the offensive lineman said of a potential ownership change. “As far as this situation here, who knows, man? I just know that Coach Rivera is a great coach.” 

Rivera, barring an unforeseen change, could be tasked with being in a similar position once again. 

“It’s definitely uncertain,” McLaurin said. “There’s a lot of things that can change outside of the norm of each attrition. We all understand that in this locker room, being professionals.”

More articles

Latest article