3 DTs Commanders should sign after Phiadrian Mathis’ season-ending injury

The Washington Commanders opened their 2022 season with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. While celebrations are still in full swing, and rightly so, the injury to rookie Phidarian Mathis really put a damper on a great day.

Mathis got his knee rolled up and his reaction — punching the ground, wiping tears from his eyes, and his teammates taking a knee before he was carted off — had fans fearing the worst-case scenario for the second-round defensive lineman.

Those fears were confirmed Monday as NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Mathis suffered a torn meniscus that required season-ending surgery.

Just like that, Mathis’ rookie year is over and the Commanders, already short on interior defenders, suddenly have a bigger hole to fill. Ron Rivera revealed Monday (before the heartbreaking news was disclosed) that the team is looking for DT help.

Odds are the Commanders look for younger players to fill the void, but there are three veterans available on the open market who’d serve as great backups to starters Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, who shone against the Jaguars.

3 DTs the Commanders should sign to replace Phidarian Mathis

Linval Joseph

It’s pretty stunning Joseph is still available, as he was an underrated, but vital component of the Chargers’ defensive line in 2020 and ’21. Last year, the 33-year-old posted an 83.0 pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus in a part-time role.

Getting up there in age, Joseph isn’t as impactful against the run as he was during his prime with the Vikings, with whom he was a two-time Pro Bowler. He isn’t a like-for-like replacement for Mathis, which makes him joining Washington unlikely, but the team won’t find a better option on the open market.

Or could they?

Ndamukong Suh

Suh might not be available for much longer, as he recently stated his desire to become Nebraska’s (his alma mater) head coach after the program fired Scott Frost. In all seriousness, though, Suh’s imposing presence is just what Washington needs to get by without Mathis.

Suh has started all 191 games in his career, but his snap share has decreased in each of the last three seasons: 77% in 2019, 74% in 2020 and 67% in 2021.

We all know the Commanders like to rotate their defensive linemen (Jon Allen, the team’s most important defender, played just 70% of the snaps last season), so there should be plenty of snaps to go around if Suh were to join the rotation.

Now 35 years old, Suh has aged like fine wine. In 2021, he racked up six sacks, seven tackles for loss, 13 QB hits, 37 pressures and 24 hurries.

Star Lotulelei

This isn’t the first time we’ve floated Lotulelei as a potential depth signing for the Commanders, and it probably won’t be the last. The reason for that? He’s a former first-round pick of Ron Rivera in Carolina and has five years of experience under Washington’s head coach.

It’s well-documented that Rivera loves signing former players and Lotulelei checks all the boxes as a rotational piece behind Allen and Payne.

Lotulelei played his last three seasons in Buffalo, but the Bills moved on after they reconstructed their defensive line (which included signing former Commander Tim Settle), and he’s still searching for a new home with Week 1 in the books.

In three years with the AFC juggernaut, Lotulelei logged 53 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks and a 27.2% run stop win rate. The Commanders can do a lot worse (like promoting an experienced practice squad stash) than signing Lotulelei to fill Mathis’ run-stuffing role in the trenches.

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