Super Bowl LT a Fit to Replace Charles Leno Jr. for Commanders

The Washington Commanders created a sizeable hole along the offensive line by releasing Charles Leno Jr., but they can fill the void by signing Super Bowl-winning left tackle Donovan Smith in free agency.

Washington Commanders' Charles Leno Jr. out after wife's miscarriage

The latter’s still available on the veteran market, despite helping the Kansas City Chiefs win last season’s Super Bowl. Smith also has another Lombardi Trophy on his CV from his time with the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Signing Smith would mean the Commanders acquire “a serviceable left tackle,” according to Dan Pizzuta of The 33rd Team. Pizzuta pointed out that although the “Commanders have brought in a flood of free agents, their offensive line is a big question, especially with a rookie quarterback likely playing behind it next season.”

Putting Smith into the lineup would provide whichever quarterback the Commanders select in the 2024 NFL draft with a proven commodity protecting the blindside. Somebody who helped keep two of the greatest quarterbacks in league history clean in the biggest games.

Donovan Smith Has the Right Pedigree for Commanders

Smith’s pedigree is impressive beyond the championships he’s accrued. Specifically, he’s been relied upon by greats Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

Brady benefited from Smith’s talents when the lineman started 15 games for the 2020 Bucs. Smith was near-flawless during the team’s postseason run, not allowing a single sack or yielding a penalty across 274 snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

He was nearly as good for the Chiefs in last season’s playoffs. The 30-year-old surrendered just one sack and a single penalty, giving Mahomes the time he needed to dominate.

While he rose to the occasion in the postseason, Smith had his issues in general play during the regular campaign. Issues like being “a decent pass protector early in the down — he was 17th in pass block win rate among tackles — but can struggle to hold blocks. He had a troublesome 5.9 percent passing blown block rate last season, per SIS. That, and a penchant for penalties, has slowed his market,” according to Pizzuta.

Those numbers present legitimate concerns about Smith’s mettle in pass-protection. Valid concerns for a team tipped to select a quarterback second overall, with Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy deemed a popular fit, while Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels is considered by others the leading candidate to be Washington’s QB1 this year.

Either rookie will need solid protection, and for all his faults, Smith can still provide it, like he did for Mahomes against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9, per PFF KC Chiefs.

Smith’s effectiveness isn’t limited to the passing game. The 6-foot-6, 338-pounder can put defenders on skates in the running game.

Having Smith on the field helped the Chiefs become a more effective power-rushing team, behind the efforts of running back Isiah Pacheco. The latter benefited from Smith shifting into space to clear his path for a decisive run against the Buffalo Bills, highlighted by Nick Jacobs of KSHB 41 News.

Washington’s revamped offense could use more plays like this after tallying 359 rushing attempts last season, the fewest in the NFL.

Smith possesses the versatility and big-game temperament a young and rebuilding Commanders team needs. Signing him would mean avoiding taking an unnecessary risk at a vital spot.

Commanders Need Credible Replacement for Charles Leno Jr.

Leno was one of the few solid performers on a line that allowed 65 sacks in 2023. The rest of the group struggled without elite talent.

Among the strugglers was right tackle Andrew Wylie, another Chiefs O-lineman signed after a Super Bowl triumph. The Commanders might be wary of a repeat, although general manager Adam Peters has already acquired left guard Nick Allegretti from KC, so rolling the dice with a deal for Smith is worth a similar risk.

That’s assuming the Chiefs don’t move quickly to bring Smith back for another season. Securing his future is one potential reason behind the decision to trade cornerback L’Jarius Sneed to the Tennessee Titans, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Fortunately, Peters still has the funds to beat the Chiefs to the punch. The Commanders are projected by to have $46,483,633 worth of space under the salary cap, a hefty figure boosted in part by moves like releasing Leno and tight end Logan Thomas on March 1.

Using some of that money to add Smith makes more sense than letting 2023 fourth-round draft pick Braeden Daniels take the reins at left tackle.

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