INDIANAPOLIS — Washington Commanders General Manager Adam Peters stepped into the spotlight on the first day of the NFL combine and was coy about his plan for the No. 2 pick, which has the power to alter the trajectory of the franchise.

It seems clear the Commanders want to draft a quarterback, but their options are wide open. Peters fielded so many questions about the position Tuesday that at one point he joked, “I appreciate the non-quarterback question.”

The fate of the No. 1 pick — and the Commanders’ chances of getting in the mix — will become clear in the next two weeks. Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles told reporters that if the Bears draft a quarterback, they won’t also keep Justin Fields. Poles said he would want to “do right by Justin,” which means trading him before the free agent negotiating period opens March 11, to maximize their return.

If the Bears prefer to keep Fields, they’ll stoke a bidding war for the top pick. Poles said he hasn’t had “big-time conversations” about the pick, but “everyone wants to take the temperature of what’s going on.”

Chicago’s decision will be important for Washington; the Commanders could move up for Southern California’s Caleb Williams, the presumptive No. 1 pick, or stay put and decide between LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye.

“You always want to be involved in [discussions for the top pick],” Peters said. “Whether you actually pull the trigger or not, that’s a different story.”

Washington is focused on interviews and medical information. Which is good because Williams, Maye and Daniels reportedly will not throw or work out for scouts until their pro days. The quarterbacks who do throw here will do so Saturday.

Peters emphasized his belief in building through the draft. Yeah, that’s clichéd GM-speak in the same vein as “keep the main thing the main thing.” But Peters has insinuated several times that the Commanders won’t be big spenders in free agency — despite having nearly $78 million in salary cap space, one of the highest totals in the league.

“You want to build it responsibly so it’s sustainable,” Peters said. “Spending on a bunch of high-level free agents, that’s probably better in the short term. But are you better in the long term? Maybe. Maybe not.”

The salary cap jumped more than $30 million this year, which hurts the Commanders a little. Theoretically, the increase affects every team the same, but in reality, not so. Formerly cap-strapped teams now have more negotiating room.

“The value of cap space is asymmetrical,” Eric Eager, vice president of sports analytics company SumerSports, wrote on X. “The lack of cap space is way worse than having an abundance of it is good.”

Washington won’t use the franchise tag on any players this year, Peters said. That means if the team doesn’t get a deal done with safety Kam Curl, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.

Peters said the Commanders have had conversations with Curl’s agents, and those discussions will continue before the start of free agency.

“I can just say from playing against him … when I was in San Francisco, he was always one of the best players on the defense and [one of] the guys we had to watch out for, a guy we had to game-plan for,” Peters said. “So I have a lot of respect for him. I’ve heard great things about him. … We’re going to definitely explore that and see if it fits into our overall plans.”

Washington has ground to make up. The Commanders were the last of nine teams to hire a coach and spent the next two weeks building his staff.

Now, Peters said, the team is still “working through” evaluations of its soon-to-be free agents. He added that the team expects to gain some clarity on those players this week at the combine; in addition to evaluating draft prospects, teams use the event to talk with agents about players on their rosters and those with expiring deals.

“It’s a big puzzle you’re putting together,” Peters said. “… We’ll probably come up with a lot of decisions coming out of this week, which will be good prior to free agency. But we’re still really in the middle of that process.”

Coach Dan Quinn and Peters have spent time with quarterback Sam Howell. Players are prohibited from participating in individual meetings or film study with coaches, and they can’t take part in any team-supervised workouts before the start of the offseason workout program. But they can have casual conversations with members of the organization.

Peters and Quinn said they’ve gotten to know Howell in recent weeks.

“What I did want him to know was, man, going against him, he is one hell of a competitor,” said Quinn, who was the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator last season. “Tried to hit him, tried to knock him off, to really put pressure on him. That was one thing that I really admired about him even coming up through North Carolina and his two years [with Washington].”



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