Commanders pull surprising move to sign Rivals QB after  cutting his pay joined  Washington…

In a move that seemed likely after they signed a veteran quarterback in free agency, the Washington Commanders traded quarterback Sam Howell and a pair of picks to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday for two higher selections in next month’s draft. Washington sent a fourth-round pick (No. 102) and a sixth-round pick (No. 179) to Seattle and received selections in the third round (No. 78) and fifth round (No. 152).

The trade gives Washington six of the top 100 selections — Nos. 2, 36, 40, 67, 78 and 100 — which will help the team continue to overhaul the roster or, should it want, try to cut another deal in the draft.

The Commanders selected Howell in the fifth round of the 2022 draft, labeling him a developmental player who needed time before stepping into a bigger role. After spending most of his rookie season sitting behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, Howell impressed in a Week 18 win over the Dallas Cowboys and was named the starter for 2023, with Eric Bieniemy as his play-caller.

Despite showing promise early and in big games, Howell’s performance regressed as the offense (and team) struggled. He was benched late in the season, but an injury to backup Jacoby Brissett prompted former coach Ron Rivera to keep Howell as the starter for the full season. Howell completed 63.4 percent of his passes and registered a 78.9 passer rating, but he took the most sacks (65) and threw the most interceptions (21) of any quarterback in the league.

The arrival of General Manager Adam Peters and a new coaching staff led by Dan Quinn set in motion a complete roster overhaul that began in earnest Monday, when the NFL’s open negotiating period began. The Commanders have since agreed to terms with 14 new free agents and re-signed three of their own, all with the intent of addressing positions of need and providing veteran leadership; most of the free agent deals were for one or two years.

Among Washington’s additions was quarterback Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft. His arrival signaled that the team probably viewed him as a backup who could mentor a younger quarterback and help him develop — or, if necessary, step in and start.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of different things throughout my career,” Mariota said Thursday before the Commanders traded Howell. “I’ve been a starter, won a playoff game. I’ve also been cut. I’ve also been injured. I’ve also been benched. So I think all those experiences create value and also create opportunities for me to build relationships with guys. I can build [relationships] with the top guy on the roster to the very bottom of the roster. That’s important. Sometimes you need guys like myself to kind of glue guys together and just be an advocate for the guys.”

Peters and Quinn praised Howell last month for his toughness, but his status in Washington was precarious because of the team’s No. 2 pick, a prime spot for selecting a quarterback.

In Seattle, Howell will get a fresh start with a new coaching staff led by Mike Macdonald. Geno Smith remains the starter, but his backup last season, Drew Lock, signed with the New York Giants in free agency.

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