‘Versatile Chess Piece’ Chose Commanders Because of Dan Quinn

Dan Quinn

Getty Dan Quinn is the reason the Washington Commanders landed a key free agent on defense.

Jeremy Chinn chose to sign with the Washington Commanders in 2024 NFL free agency because of head coach Dan Quinn. The former Carolina Panthers’ safety, described as a “versatile chess piece” by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, agreed a one-year deal with the Commanders on Tuesday, March 12.

The deal was first reported by Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz, who confirmed the contract is worth “up to $5.1M.” Schultz also reported Chinn “had multiple offers, but wanted to join Dan Quinn’s defense after seeing his recent success with the #Cowboys.”

Quinn did produce an exciting brand of defense as coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys the last three seasons. A key part of his scheme was a hybrid safety-linebacker role that’s perfect for Chinn’s skill-set.

Jeremy Chinn Perfect for Dan Quinn’s Defense

Players like Keanu Neal, Jayron Kearse and Markquese Bell were all safeties playing linebacker in Quinn’s base defenses. Bell thrived making the conversion from defensive back after going undrafted out of Florida A&M, per The Draft Network’s Ryan Fowler.

Chinn is a player in the same mold. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he has the size to be a force closer to the line of scrimmage.

His ability to operate at defensive back and linebacker make him a roving matchup equalizer for a creative play-caller. Quinn will know how to use the range that saw Chinn not allow a single touchdown in coverage in 2022 and still blitz 135 times during his career with the Panthers, per Pro Football Reference.

Returning to the linebacker level should appeal to Chinn. He played right linebacker and started 15 games in his first pro season, when “Chinn finished 2nd to Chase Young in 2020 defensive rookie of the year voting,” according to Ben Standig of The Athletic.

Chinn’s progress has been stunted since, thanks to hamstring and quad problems that landed him on injured reserve twice. Moving back to his familiar position in Quinn’s system will not only get Chinn back on track.

It will also turn linebacker from a weakness to a strength for the Commanders. Especially with Chinn joining another former Panthers starter, Frankie Luvu, on a revamped depth chart.

Chinn partnering Luvu behind the defensive line could be the best-case scenario for a Commanders’ free agent who still has value at safety.

Kam Curl’s Future Still Uncertain After Jeremy Chinn Arrival

Chinn’s experience at safety is potentially bad news for Kamren Curl, according to ESPN’s John Keim. He noted how the Commanders adding Chinn to Quan Martin, Darrick Forrest and Percy Butler “does not look good for Kam Curl’s return. At all.”

Not being able to bring Curl back would be a shame because the 2020 seventh-round pick developed into a fine safety in Washington. Curl became adept at playing as a de facto linebacker, but he really improved once he began aligning in the deep third.

As USA Today’s Doug Farrar noted, Curl played “credibly enough in the deep third to make the most of coverage switches.”

Curl’s range of skills explain a market value projected by Spotrac.com as $14.4 million annually across four years. It’s steep, but Quinn’s defenses in Dallas always relied on competent deep safeties, with Farrar detailing how they played a lot of single-high coverage in 2021, but more two-deep coverage a year later.

Bringing Curl back makes sense, but the Commanders have already been big spenders in free agency. Securing Chinn for at least one year gives the team another contingency plan regarding Curl.

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