The Washington Commanders traded for quarterback Carson Wentz last offseason for a reason: They viewed him as an upgrade over Taylor Heinicke.

It makes sense they’re turning to Wentz again with two games left and a playoff spot at stake. Washington announced Wednesday morning that Wentz would return to the starting lineup. He broke his right ring finger on Oct. 13 and spent the past two games on the active roster as Heinicke’s backup.

In Wentz's absence, Heinicke guided the Commanders to a 5-3-1 record as a starter and placed them in the thick of the playoff hunt. But after three straight winless games in which the offense has struggled to score, the Commanders are going back to Wentz for the team's final two games against the Cleveland Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox) and the Dallas Cowboys.

Here’s what you need to know about the move.


Why now?

Multiple reasons. Washington is 0-2-1 in its past three games and, while it’s certainly not all Heinicke's fault, the offense hasn’t produced enough despite a strong running attack. The Commanders’ offense has scored 23 or more points twice in the past eight games -- and none in the past five.

Red zone offense has been a primary issue. In Heinicke’s eight full starts before being benched late in Saturday’s 37-20 loss at the San Francisco 49ers, Washington ranked 13th in total yards but 26th in the red zone and 27th on third downs. Heinicke is far from alone in the blame, but he also plays a position for which the Commanders have an alternative they view as the better option.


What does this mean for Wentz's future?

Washington needs to decide if he’s its quarterback for 2023 -- and perhaps a few years longer.

Washington gave up two third-round picks and swapped second-round picks last season to acquire Wentz from Indianapolis. The Commanders also absorbed his $28 million cap hit in 2022. While it wasn’t an exorbitant price, it was costly enough to suggest they viewed him as more than a one-year experiment.