The Washington Commanders made a choice that went beyond their next starting quarterback when they traded for Carson Wentz.

Acquiring a veteran with status at the sport’s most crucial position means taking on a significant salary and cap hit. Quarterback is a crucial piece of any football menu. That decision alters the other groceries one can purchase.

“Obviously, we had to reassess and re-evaluate and kind of put a new plan together as to what we can and can’t do, especially with free agency,” coach Ron Rivera said in April after acquiring Wentz. “So it did have an impact on us, and it did change our point of view on some things, obviously, because of the cap.”

That impact is part of the story of Washington’s opening three games. Same with the subsequent personnel choices.

Rivera isn’t dropping fake news by saying Wentz’s $28.3 million cap hit changed Washington’s plans. Ryan Fitzpatrick, last season’s planned starter, made $10 million in 2021. Putting aside Fitzpatrick’s Week 1 season-ending injury, his paltry cap number allowed Washington to spend big on two free agents: cornerback William Jackson III and wide receiver Curtis Samuel.

Free agent Mitch Trubisky, who was linked to Washington at points this offseason, inked a two-year deal with Pittsburgh for $14.3 million total (not including incentives). Going with a similar route would have left ample cap space for the Commanders, though Wentz’s talented right arm offers the offense a higher ceiling.

But that’s not the entire accounting tale. The front office — or those focused on cash spent — largely declined to open more cap space. Therefore, the subsequent free-agent additions, including guards Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, were modest at best. For some positions like cornerback and linebacker, there were no impactful free-agent additions. It didn’t have to be this way.

“You can always manipulate the cap to acquire players,” former Washington salary-cap analyst J.I. Halsell said.

Trading for Wentz was aggressive. It might also be classified as a half-measure. Unless the quarterback is a true franchise-changer or offers such potential — that’s not Wentz, based on recent seasons — adding at that position isn’t enough when the goal is winning big and your direct competitors are getting better.