Commanders Deemed ‘Best Fit’ for Ex-Chiefs Starter to Protect Jayden Daniels

Donovan Smith, Washington Commanders, Kansas City Chiefs

Getty Donovan Smith lifting up Pacheco during a Chiefs game.

The Washington Commanders drafted Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL draft, giving them a hopeful upgrade at the quarterback position. Allowing the second most sacks per game last season, protecting Daniels needs to be a priority next season. With free agent Donovan Smith still on the market, a Super Bowl champion with the Kansas City Chiefs last season, Dallas Robinso of Pro Football Network deemed the Commanders the “best fit” for the offensive tackle.

“Although the Washington Commanders filled many of their needs in the draft, they missed out on a Round 1 or 2 offensive tackle. Third-rounder Brandon Coleman will get a shot at protecting Jayden Daniels‘ blindside, but some draft analysts viewed the TCU product as an NFL guard.

“While Donovan Smith isn’t a world-beater, he’s made 136 career starts,” Robinson wrote in his May 3 article exploring the best landing spots for remaining free agents. “He battled injuries with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2023 but still appeared in 12 regular-season games before starting four playoff games on the way to a Super Bowl title.”

Smith has a market value of $10.2 million, according to Spotrac, making him a candidate for the Commanders as they still have $43.4 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap.

Penalties an Issue for Donovan Smith

Despite missing games for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, appearing in just 12 games, Smith was penalized the 11th most in football at his position, according to PFF. Limiting penalties was one of the few things the Washington Commanders did well in 2023, averaging the seventh-fewest in the NFL.

Examining “why he’s still available,” Bill Barnwell of ESPN wrote on March 20 that his penalties have been an issue over the past four seasons. Barnwell also pointed to his neck injury as a potential concern.

“Smith has 29 over the last four seasons, which ties him for the third-most of any player,” Barnwell wrote. “No. 1 is former Chiefs teammate and fellow tackle Jawaan Taylor, so that should be proof that penalties alone can’t keep players from winning a Super Bowl. Smith is 30 and missed the final five games of the regular season with a neck injury before returning in the postseason, so there might be some medical concerns around him as well.”

When he was on the field healthy, Smith posted a pass block win rate of just under 91%, according to Barnwell. That ranked 18th among all tackles.

Washington Commanders Still Need OT Help

Smith could help the Washington Commanders as they still need offensive tackle help. Smith allowed just two sacks in the 749 offensive snaps he played and posted above-average pass-blocking grades from PFF in every season since 2016 besides one.

Ben Standig of The Athletic wrote on May 2 that while they drafted Brandon Coleman, there are still questions about the tackle options.

“Questions about the left tackle options grew louder post-draft despite the third-round selection of Coleman, a 6-foot-4, 313-pound team captain with 4.99 40-yard speed and over 1,600 snaps at left tackle.

“He joins Lucas, a steady swing tackle the past four seasons, in an important position battle,” Standig wrote. “Fans, having already expressed some valid and overwrought concerns with Wylie on the right side and knowing that protecting Daniels is a significant priority, are growing more anxious.”

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