The Washington Commanders took their first step towards ushering in a new era for the franchise by hiring away Adam Peters -- widely considered the most coveted front office executive in the league -- from the San Francisco 49ers to be their new general manager.
Now, Peters joins the brain trust organized by Managing Partner Josh Harris to decide where the franchise should go next, and there's a lot to do.
There's a reason why Peters said "the work starts now" in the press release announcing the hire. From the time he signed his contract, Peters has been covering a variety of topics surrounding the team, from the draft and free agency to finding a new head coach. It's going to be a busy offseason for him as he takes on being a general manager for the first time, so let's look at some of the events on the calendar that will require his immediate attention.
New general manager Adam Peters arrives at the Commanders facilities amidst a ton of fanfare and excitement
Find a new head coach
Of all the moves that the Commanders need to make, finding a new head coach is the most important. Every decision the team makes, whether it pertains to free agency or the draft, will hinge upon who the Commanders bring in to mold the vision for the roster.
Peters, Harris and the team's search committee consisting of Bob Myers, Rick Spielman and several limited partners have already begun interviewing candidates virtually, per league rules. In-person interviews can start today (Jan. 22), but coaches for teams still in playoffs (Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald) cannot take place until at least Jan. 29.
As expected, Peters and the Commanders haven't revealed much about what they're looking for in a new head coach, other than to say that they're not going to favor coaches from either side of the ball. All the coaches the team has been reportedly connected to confirm as much, adding more credence to Harris' desire of having a "thorough, but rapid" process to filling the role.
The only other quality Peters has revealed that Washington is looking for, regardless of what side of the ball they come from, is the ability to bring leadership to the position.
"I think in any head coach, in any leader, is leadership," Peters said when asked about the most important factor in the search. "Leadership, great communication, being able to be honest, direct and upfront, have all those qualities, and they're all intertwined. But those are the main qualities. You have to be very smart. You have to be very driven."
The real work begins once the Commanders have found their guy. Peters has already begun evaluating parts of the roster and prospects for the draft, but having a head coach who can provide a clear vision allows him to figure out the best moves that need to be made for that vision to become a reality.
Fill out the front office staff
Although Peters will need to create his own path as one of Washington's key leaders, he'll have to start things by inheriting several pieces of the old regime.
Eugene Shen, who was hired by the team ahead of the trade deadline to be the senior vice president of football strategy, is one of the only people guaranteed to remain in their current position. For the rest of the staff, things are more fluid. Martin Mayhew, the Commanders' previous general manager, is still technically on the staff, as is executive vice president of football/player personnel Marty Hurney, senior vice president of football administration Rob Rogers and senior director of player personnel Eric Stokes.
"I appreciate that from their point of view, there's uncertainty," Harris said in his end of season press conference. "But I've just asked them to bear with us and to just to do their jobs, to continue to run the football team. Everyone to a person has said that they care about the club, they care about the franchise, and that they want to be part of the solution."
Now that Peters has been hired, some of those decisions can be made. It's worth noting that some members of the front office could remain with the team in different roles. Mayhew, for example, worked with Peters when they were both with the 49ers and have a good working relationship. There's also a possibility that most of the scouting department remains intact for at least the draft process.
Of course, Peters will also want to bring in new voices to the front office at some point, but for now, he needs to evaluate each person to decide whether they are a fit for the organization's new direction.
Attend the Senior Bowl
The Commanders have nine draft picks this offseason, and the first opportunity to get in-person interactions with prospects is about a week away from taking place.
The Reese's Senior Bowl has become one of the best spots for coaches, executives and fans to get a closer look at some of the top college players in the country. The all-star game in Mobile, Alabama, has historically been available for only senior prospects, but that will change this offseason with a select group of underclassmen receiving invites as well.
Considering the number of position groups that Peters and his staff will need to improve in the coming months, it will be a prime spot for the Commanders to get started on remodeling the roster. Quarterback remains the biggest question mark, and with Commanders picking at No. 2 overall, there is a chance to get a player who could bring long term stability that has been missing for years. Players like Caleb Williams and Drake Maye will not be in attendance, but other quality prospects like Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. will headline practices and the game at the end of the week.
Most of the players Washington has drafted over the last four years played in the Senior Bowl, so there's a good chance that fans can get a good look at the team's future if they tune in.
Evaluate the roster
Once Peters has his head coach in place, the next step will be to determine what they want to do with the players on the roster. Peters has done some of the work already, and he does like a few of the pieces that are available to him.
"I believe that there's a few cornerstone pieces in this roster," Peters said. "I believe we have a lot of work to do, and that's just evaluating everybody."
Peters is unlikely to name which players he views as "cornerstone pieces," but there a few candidates. Names like Terry McLaurin, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne are easy ones to throw out because of their production and leadership. There are also a few younger players like Brian Robinson Jr. and Jahan Dotson who could be more productive with the right pieces around them.
Of course, there are also questions about the quarterback position how Peters views Sam Howell, who had his struggles but did ultimately put together one of the best single-season performances in franchise history.
Once again, Peters did not reveal much about his thoughts on the position, saying instead that "just like all the positions, we're going to sit down and evaluate, and that process will start once we hire the head coach and his staff."
"And we're going to do that collaboratively with the head coach, his staff, the personnel department, R&D, analytics, and come up with our evaluations for all that before we move forward."
Prepare for free agency
The Commanders will have some of the most cap space available to them once the new league year begins in March. The question of what to do with that money will be one of Peters' top priorities.
Washington has the ability to be one of the biggest spenders in free agency this offseason, and there are a few players who could warrant that kind of attention. There are a few reasons why that might not be the case, though. Peters believes in supplementing the roster in free agency, rather than making expensive moves. So, while there might be a few players they will want to go after, it would go against one of Peters' core beliefs if they set out to "win" the free agency period.
The other problem is that half of Washington's roster is set to hit the open market in a couple of months. Washington probably won't keep every player; that will depend on how Peters and the head coach evaluate the roster. However, it's reasonable to assume that Washington could keep some of their pending free agents, whether that be Curtis Samuel, Cornelius Lucas or any other player who made a meaningful contribution in 2023.
The results will likely be a mixture of what Peters and the head coach value as well as a few pieces from the previous regime. It's also possible they bring in options from their previous employers. The 49ers, for example, have almost two dozen players set to hit free agency, including Javon Kinlaw, Randy Gregory, Ray-Ray McCloud and Logan Ryan.
Regardless of who the Commanders sign in March, the roster is guaranteed to look significantly different than it did last season.