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9 potential backup quarterbacks for the Commanders in 2023

By Bryan Manning,


The Washington Commanders need a backup quarterback behind Sam Howell for 2023. The Commanders wanted to keep Taylor Heinicke around, but only at a number they deemed appropriate.

Heinicke shopped his services on the open market and landed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons that could pay him as much as $20 million over two years.

Andy Dalton was considered an option, but he signed with the Carolina Panthers. It isn’t known if the Commanders even reached out to Dalton before he chose Carolina. Washington even tried to lure Chad Henne out of retirement. That didn’t work, either.

There are plenty of free-agent quarterbacks available. However, only a few are trustworthy enough to start and potentially win games. Heinicke and Dalton were two of those. Washington is looking for a specific type of quarterback—a veteran with starting experience who can push Howell but not necessarily overtake him.

We’ve identified nine potential options for the Commanders, some more likely than others.

Cooper Rush
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush (10) throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing flashy here, but did you see what Cooper Rush did for the Cowboys when Dak Prescott was injured? Many believed the Cowboys’ season was over after Prescott went down in Week 1. Behind a strong defense and running game, Rush managed a 4-1 record as the starting quarterback and earned himself some money this offseason. Prescott’s salary likely means the Cowboys aren’t giving Rush top backup money, so he could be an option.

Gardner Minshew
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew (10). Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Gardner Minshew can play and has starting experience. He’s accustomed to being a backup, can run any type of offense and win games. Minshew has a cult-like following, much like Heinicke, so if Howell struggled, Minshew would be a popular name. Minshew understands his role as a backup and, overall, would be a good choice.

Jacoby Brissett
Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) drops back to throw the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Jacoby Brissett, along with Dalton and Heinicke, were the names most mentioned as options for Washington. Brissett can play in any system, has plenty of starting experience, can win games and is an excellent teammate. Sounds like the perfect mentor. Ultimately, from this list, he should be the top choice.

Kyle Allen
Kyle Allen Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Could Kyle Allen come “home” again? Remember, head coach Ron Rivera traded for Allen shortly after becoming head coach in 2020. He spent two years in Washington, had some success in 2020 before he injured his leg. Once he returned, Heinicke moved past him on the depth chart, and he departed last offseason. Allen wouldn’t be the top pick, but he’s not a bad choice.

Marcus Mariota
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) passes the ball as Washington Commanders defensive end Montez Sweat. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Mariota is an intriguing option, depending on what type of offense you want to run. His name was mentioned in the previous two offseasons as a possibility. However, under new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Mariota doesn’t make much sense. There could be worse options, but there will also be better options. Mariota had a weird 2022 season, in which some accused him of quitting on the Falcons after they benched him for Desmond Ridder. That’s not what Rivera is looking for.

Teddy Bridgewater
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) during the game against Washington. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Teddy Bridgewater is another good option for Washington. He has a ton of starting experience, and he also has experience being a backup. He’s terrific in the locker room and can play when his number is called.

Drew Lock
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock (2) rolls out in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A former second-round pick, Drew Lock has failed to establish himself as a starter with two teams. He is still a young player, so not necessarily the right fit for the Commanders.

Baker Mayfield
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield (17) walks on the field after the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

What a fall from grace for the former No. 1 overall pick. Mayfield will likely be on his fourth team in 2023. Mayfield played well at times after the Rams acquired him. Still a younger player, Mayfield probably still has designs on starting, so that doesn’t make him a good match. Interestingly enough. Howell has often been compared to Mayfield, more so because of his size and stature.

Chase Daniel
Chase Daniel, #4 of the Los Angeles Chargers, warms up before the game against the Washington Football Team. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Chase Daniel is 36 years old and began his NFL career back in 2009 — with Washington. Since then, Daniel has played for seven teams, making some good money and never playing. In 14 NFL seasons, Daniel has five career starts. Daniel would be an outstanding mentor, but the Commanders are likely looking for someone who has played more than Daniel in case Howell gets hurt or struggles.

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