JD McKissic’s Future Will Shape Commanders’ RB Room
JD McKissic’s Future Will Shape Commanders’ RB Room for 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
* With the Super Bowl in the past and the 2021 season on the books, NBC Sports Washington’s Ethan Cadeau and Matt Weyrich take a look at potential free agents the Washington Commanders could benefit from signing this offseason. Next: running backs Chase Edmonds and Sony Michel.
It’s no secret that Commanders will enter free agency in hopes of re-signing running back JD McKissic. General Manager Martin Mayhew told the NFL Combine on Wednesday, tell reporters he “would love to have” McKissic back in the fold next season.
The 28-year-old scatback ranked second on the team in receptions (43) and receiving yards (397) in 2021, a testament to both his impact as a passer and the inability to Washington to find a No. 2 receiver behind Terry. McLaurin. McKissic didn’t see much action in the rushing game but posted a solid 4.4 yards per carry before a concussion kept him out for the final six games.
Now, Washington’s running back room is made up of just Antonio Gibson and Jaret Patterson. Gibson posted a 1,000-yard season but hit the bench several times for his fumbling issues and needed to manage his workload due to injury concerns. While Patterson, an undrafted free agent, has shown promise as a rookie in limited action, he’s still a raw player.
McKissic is among the best guards in the NFL, but he’s not guaranteed to re-sign and his limitations as a runner could cause COs to take another route this offseason to find a change of pace option behind. Gibson – and provide insurance if more time is missing. If they want a player who could be both a No. 2 rusher and a receiving threat, Chase Edmonds may be the answer.
Paired with James Conner in the Arizona Cardinals’ backfield, Edmonds was a dynamic threat capable of knocking out big plays despite his 5-foot-9, 210-pound estimate. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2021, which ranked seventh among running backs with at least 100 attempts. In the air, Edmonds had the same number of targets (53) and catches (43) as McKissic with 86 fewer yards.
Injuries were a problem for Edmonds last season, missing four games with a major ankle injury and missing Week 18 with toe and rib problems. He also missed three games in 2019, but has otherwise adapted to every Cardinals game over the past four years.
Focus on professional football projects Edmonds will sign a two-year, $12 million contract in free agency, compared to McKissic’s one-year, $2.5 million. That $3.5 million difference in annual salary can be attributed to Edmonds’ impact on the field. Even though Conner took a bigger share of the spotlight by scoring 18 touchdowns last year, Edmonds was much more effective as a rusher while ninth in the standings among all non-QBs with a 15% explosive play percentage on rush attempts.
However, McKissic was a popular player in the Commanders’ locker room and is modestly priced for his level of production in the air. If Washington retained him, they could sign both him and a downhill running back like Sony Michel for the same amount it would cost to acquire Edmonds.
With a price tag of $4.25 million a year projected by PFF, it would only cost COs $750,000 more to sign both McKissic and Michel than if they were to ink just Edmonds. Michel landed with the Los Angeles Rams in a trade with the New England Patriots shortly before the start of the season and eventually earned the trust of head coach Sean McVay.
After rushing for 305 yards on 79 attempts in his first 11 games, Michel carried the ball 129 times for 540 yards in the Rams’ last six regular season games. Cam Akers’ return from a torn Achilles impacted his use in the playoffs, but Michel showed enough to bolster his reputation as a power runner with the ability to shake off tackles and move chains.
He won’t add much to the passing game — Michel has caught just 47 passes in four seasons — but wouldn’t have to do that with McKissic on the roster. The Georgian product would be a solid complement to Gibson in the backfield while easing any pressure on Patterson as he continues his development lower on the depth chart.
McKissic was an integral part of Washington’s offense in 2021 and his decision whether or not to re-sign will go a long way in determining how he approaches the running back position in free agency. Without him, commanders will have to think big to approach the position. With him, they can afford to target a player like Michel who only has to fulfill a specific role in their attack.
Other free agent targets: