Commanders telling coordinator candidates that Sam Howell likely starter

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The Washington Commanders are just beginning their offseason, but they’re signaling their plans to prospective offensive coordinators.

After firing offensive coordinator Scott Turner last week, the Commanders have informed candidates to replace him that Sam Howell will likely be the team’s starting quarterback in 2023, sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed.

That won’t preclude Washington from exploring the quarterback market — and Howell will have to earn the job outright, sources said — but the news signifies that the 2022 fifth-rounder will at least get an opportunity to build upon his promising debut in the team’s Week 18 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Howell impressed when he threw for 169 yards on 11 of 19 passing for a touchdown and an interception. The 22-year-old also scored another touchdown with his legs, running in the end zone for a 9-yard score as part of his 35 rushing yards on five attempts. Though the stats may not have overwhelmed, the quarterback displayed a strong arm and a good knack for when to escape the pocket with his scrambling ability.

“The guy has the right attitude,” general manager Martin Mayhew said of Howell last Tuesday. “He’s got a very quiet confidence about him. It’s promising and it’s good to have Sam as an option as we move forward and we’re talking through what the other alternatives are right now.”

Howell spent most of this past season as Washington’s third-string quarterback. But he took steps in his development behind the scenes, running scout team in practice and serving as Washington’s primary backup during the two months that a finger injury sidelined Carson Wentz. When the Commanders were eliminated from the playoffs late in the year, coach Ron Rivera turned to Howell to start the team’s final game.

Starting Howell next season would allow the Commanders to build their roster around a player still on his rookie contract. Last offseason, Washington traded multiple draft picks to acquire Carson Wentz — a move that led Washington to cut important contributors such as guard Ereck Flowers and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis in order to take on the veteran quarterback’s $28 million cap hit. Wentz did not work out for the Commanders as desired, going 2-5 as a starter.

The Commanders can — and will almost certainly — release Wentz at no cost later this offseason. The team’s brass must also decide what to do with Taylor Heinicke, who will be a free agent after starting 24 games over the past two seasons.

CBS Sports first reported the news that Howell will likely be Washington’s starter next season.

The Commanders drafted Howell last April after the quarterback fell to them in the fifth round. Despite adding Wentz earlier in the offseason, Washington’s brass felt Howell’s talent was too good to pass up. Howell, after all, was once seen as a potential top-five pick following his freshman season at North Carolina, but struggled to reach the same highs over his next two seasons.

“We feel this is a home run for us,” Rivera said of taking Howell on draft night.

Now, Howell will likely get an extended look to prove whether that’s actually the case.

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