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As top QBs spoke at the NFL Combine, the commanders began to reshape their roster.

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INDIANAPOLIS — The top quarterbacks in this year’s draft spoke to NFL reporters early Friday, but the Washington Commanders made bigger waves later in the day as they began trimming their roster.

The team released starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and tight end Logan Thomas. She also informed center Nick Gates that she would release him, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. The moves mark the start of a roster reset, freeing up about $14 million in salary cap space less than two weeks before free agency begins.

Just one of the moves is surprising: Leno, 32, was one of the team’s most reliable offensive linemen over the past three seasons and had one year remaining on his contract, which carried a cap hit of $15.5 million. By releasing him, Washington will take away $8.3 million in dead money from its remaining guarantees that will count against the salary cap.

The Commanders placed Leno on injured reserve at the end of last season, and he missed four games. He is expected to have hip surgery next week, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The releases of Thomas and Gates seemed more likely heading into the offseason. Thomas, 32, has suffered a series of injuries since arriving in Washington in 2020. He has missed 14 games over the past two seasons, and the Commanders are likely to revamp their tight end corps this offseason. By removing him, Washington saved about $6.5 million in salary cap space.

Washington signed Gates last March to a three-year, $16.5 million contract, but benched him at the start of last season after allowing five sacks in seven games. The team will only save $333,332 by cutting him, but his departure is part of a larger overhaul of the line, which has struggled in 2023.

Caleb Williams said it would be “cool” to land with his hometown team. The D.C. native and former Gonzaga College High star quarterback was asked Friday about the possibility of playing for the Commanders, who have the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft.

“It would be really cool to be back there and experience that,” Williams said. “The meeting (with the commanders) went very well and everyone was in the room. So, being with everyone… (I got) a taste of what they are, who they are, because everything is new there.

The intrigue over the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner’s chances of returning home to play with the Commanders increased when the team hired Cliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator last month. Last year, Kingsbury was a senior offensive assistant at Southern California, where Williams played two seasons of college ball.

“Kliff and I haven’t talked much specifically about (Williams),” Commanders general manager Adam Peters said Tuesday. “We just talked about quarterback play in general and what he’s looking for in quarterbacks and how we can find him the right fit, if that’s what we want to do. And it certainly hasn’t been decided yet, by any stretch of the imagination.

The Commanders’ ability to land Williams, the presumptive No. 1 pick, depends on the Chicago Bears, who hold the first pick in the draft and would likely expect a gain to even consider trading down.

Williams was one of six quarterbacks the Commanders held formal meetings with this week at the NFL combine, along with Jayden Daniels (LSU)Drake Maye (North Carolina), JJ McCarthy (Michigan), Bo Nix (Oregon) and Michael Penix (Washington). Many, if not all, of them will likely meet with commanders again during top 30 visits this spring to the team facility for more in-depth interviews.

These visits are the reason Williams chose not to participate in or undergo medical testing at the combine.

“I played about 30 games, I think,” he said. “Go ahead and watch the ball live and see how I am as a competitor. … I will do the medical work – but not here in Indy. I will do this during team interviews. There are not 32 teams that can recruit me. There’s only one of me. So the teams I go to for my visit, these teams will have the medical (information), and that will be it.

So what are the commanders looking for in their next quarterback? “You’re looking for the face of your franchise,” Peters said. “…He doesn’t have to be a big rah-rah guy, he doesn’t have to be a big colorful guy. But just be a leader and behave the right way. Obviously any talent you want, and especially now, if you have a mobile quarterback, that certainly helps, but you have to be able to play the position first.

Coach Dan Quinn cited mental toughness as a must-have quality, along with the ability to improvise and be able to get out of bad plays.

“There’s no metric for that,” Quinn said. He added that quarterbacks need to be accurate on deep throws because they make explosive plays.

Throwing the field will likely be a big part of Kingsbury’s Offensive. During his four seasons as coach of the Arizona Cardinals, 12.5 percent of the team’s throws traveled more than 20 air yards down the field, the 10th highest rate in the NFL.

Over the past two years, Daniels, the former LSU quarterback, had the most efficient deep ball in the country. He completed 53 percent of his attempts on the ground for 27 touchdowns and no interceptions, according to TruMedia.

Let’s interrupt the quarterback analysis for some roster news. The Commanders released starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and tight end Logan Thomas on Friday. These moves free up $13.8 million in salary cap space and jumpstart the rebuilding of the roster, particularly on the offensive line. Leno is expected to have hip surgery next week, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.

This decision is somewhat surprising; Leno was one of the team’s most reliable linemen over the past three years. He was placed on injured reserve at the end of the 2023 season and missed four games.

Leno, 32, had one year remaining on his contract, which carried a cap hit of $15.5 million. By releasing him, the team will take $8.3 million in dead money from its remaining guarantees that will count against the cap.

Okay, back to the quarterbacks. Daniels said what stood out from his interview with commanders was “how cool all the staff were.” He name-checked Quinn and Kingsbury.

Maye doesn’t think it would be weird to play with Sam Howell. Maye sat behind Howell at North Carolina in 2021 and considers him a mentor and good friend. They play the board game Catan and the video game PGA Tour together. But Maye dismissed the idea that it would strain their relationship if Washington drafted him to replace Howell.

“There are way bigger issues in the world than being with one of your best friends in the quarter room,” he said. “It’s not inconvenient for us; it’s just business.

Maye said he had “many connections” with commanders. Quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard recruited him out of high school, and Kingsbury knows Phil Longo, Maye’s offensive coordinator in 2021 and 2022.

McCarthy’s first meeting was with the commanders. “So I was very nervous, I’m not going to lie,” the former Michigan quarterback said. “I’m sweating a little. Coach Quinn was just awesome. I had to speak to Mr. Peters just before the meeting. Just a great atmosphere.

Josh Harris, managing partner of the Commanders, participated in all six interviews with the quarterback. He was there to observe rather than ask questions. When asked what stood out from their talks with Washington, neither quarterback mentioned Ha

Jamin Davis was convicted in his reckless driving case. The Commanders linebacker, a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, pleaded guilty Friday in Loudoun County Circuit Court. call of a conviction for reckless driving. He was given a 180-day suspended sentence – an alternative to imprisonment – ​​and his license will be suspended for six months. (Davis’ original conviction carried a 30-day non-suspended sentence.)

A suspended prison sentence usually comes with good behavior conditions which, if violated, could result in a prison sentence. He also paid a fine of $12,500 and will have to perform community service.

Davis was cited for driving his McLaren at 184 mph in a 45 mph zone on Loudoun County Parkway at Evergreen Ridge Drive shortly after 1 p.m. on March 28, 2022. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of reckless driving (speeding more than 20 miles above). the limit, over 85 mph), which is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and punishable by up to 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.

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