Rivera: Ownership uncertainty won’t affect Commanders’ draft plans

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Until the deal becomes official, Ron Rivera says there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to owner Dan Snyder’s tentative agreement to sell the Washington Commanders. The coach said he has yet to have a conversation with Josh Harris — who would become Rivera’s new boss if the sale goes through. And Rivera wouldn’t answer whether he had been in communication with Snyder.

Rivera’s focus was elsewhere. 

The NFL draft is next week, and so Rivera’s time lately has been centered around preparing for who Washington will take with its eight selections over the three-day event. Rivera said Thursday that the Commanders’ draft plans won’t be affected by the team’s ownership uncertainty. 

“It’s not a different approach,” Rivera said. “What we’ve talked about, more so than anything, as a group of us … is we’ve talked about what our plan is and what we’ve been looking for since we finished the season in January. We got together, talked about, ‘OK, this is our plan. This is what we want to do.’ 

“We put together a 2023 projection, a 2024 projection that we presented at one point and we’ve stuck to that pretty much to what we wanted to do.” 

Appearing in a pre-draft press conference with general manager Martin Mayhew, Rivera said Washington’s free agency has set up the team well for the draft. The Commanders were active spenders last month as they signed quarterback Jacoby Brissett, remade their offensive line by adding center Nick Gates and tackle Andrew Wylie and had a handful of other depth-related moves. 

But offensive line, in particular, remains a big need for Washington. The Commanders hold the 16th pick in Round 1 and could very well use the selection on a tackle. Left tackle Charles Leno was solid in 2022, though the team could save $4.25 million by cutting the veteran if they draft his replacement. And despite signing Wylie, the Commanders could even look to draft a right tackle as Wylie has experience playing guard. 

Mayhew said the versatility of Wylie and Gates — who has played guard, in addition to center — gives the team options. 

“We have the flexibility to go anywhere in the draft,” Mayhew said. 

Last year, Mayhew helped the Commanders make a splash in the first when the team traded back in the first round from No. 11 to No. 16 in a draft-day deal with the New Orleans Saints. The trade worked out quite well for the Commanders as they went on to select wide receiver Jahan Dotson (No. 16), running back Brian Robinson, quarterback Sam Howell (144) and tight end Cole Turner (149) with the picks received from New Orleans. (Washington originally acquired pick 120, and then flipped it along with 189 for picks 144 and 149 in a deal with Carolina.) 

Mayhew said trading down has historically worked well for him as an executive, which may be an indication the Commanders would like to do so again this year. Mayhew said he’ll hold conversations with other executives in the coming days to gauge the value of the 16th pick and see what teams are interested in moving up. Last year’s deal with the Saints, for instance, was the result of talks that transpired days ahead of time — even if the deal wasn’t finalized until Washington was on the clock at No. 11. 

If the Commanders get a deal that interests them, Rivera said they have full autonomy to execute the trade — meaning they don’t have to check with Snyder to get his permission. 

“We’ve always had that,” the coach said. 

As for other needs, cornerback figures to be high on the Commanders’ list. Asked about possibly drafting a quarterback, Rivera said they feel “very comfortable” with Howell and Brissett. The team hosted Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, a potential first-rounder, for a predraft visit, but Rivera indicated that was scheduled partly out of due diligence. 

“You never know, situation and circumstances may dictate something else,” Rivera said. “But for the most part, we feel very comfortable going into this draft in terms of what our needs are.”

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