Although the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders finished far apart in the NFC standings, both teams entered the offseason with plenty of work to do after failing to reach the postseason. Another common denominator among the franchises is an uncertain long-term quarterback situation. They made some steps toward potentially ironing out their respective future plans with a trade revolving around QB Sam Howell.

The deal includes pick swaps from the upcoming NFL Draft, with the Seahawks sending a third-round selection (No. 78) and a fifth-rounder (152) to the Commanders for Howell, a fourth (102) and sixth-rounder (179). Seattle needed to add another quarterback to its roster after Drew Lock signed with the New York Giants in free agency, but fans had another name in mind.

This move eliminates another possible landing spot for Chicago Bears signal-caller Justin Fields, who is quickly running out of opportunities to be a starter in 2024. The Seahawks clearly value the collective affordability and upside of Howell a bit more than the former Ohio State star. He will slot in at No. 2 behind Geno Smith but could realistically climb the depth chart in the next couple of years.

From Washington's standpoint, the organization is clearing the way for whom it hopes is the face of the franchise for a decade-plus. The No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft will not have to worry about another young QB competing with him in training camp, as new acquisition Marcus Mariota will be expected to serve more of a mentor/transitional role.

Simply put, both the Seahawks and Commanders had reason to come together for a transaction. But did they do as well as they could have? We will take a closer look at the Sam Howell trade and stamp a grade on each team.

Grading Seahawks' Sam Howell trade

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle general manager John Schneider knew he would have to address his quarterback situation going into the offseason, unless of course, he decided to bring back Drew Lock. While Geno Smith faces little opposition for the starting job at this current moment, his inconsistencies and injury issues from last year mean that having a solid backup is essential.

A guy who led the NFL in passing yards well past the halfway point of the 2023-24 campaign seems to fit that bill. Howell threw for 3,946 passing yards and 21 touchdowns despite Washington finishing near the bottom of the conference with a 4-13 record. The good was balanced out by the bad, though, as he committed a league-worst 23 turnovers (21 interceptions) and completed only 63.4 percent of his pass attempts.

The natural response to those negative aspects of his game is to point out how poorly the Commanders' offensive line performed last season. And that is definitely a valid argument to make given that the 2022 fifth-round pick was sacked a staggering 65 times (most in league). But those problems might just carry over onto his new home.

The Seahawks actually had a worse O-Line than the Commanders, according to Pro Football Focus' end-of-year rankings and has yet to upgrade the unit this offseason. They boast a wealth of wide receiver talent, but neither Smith nor Howell will be able to take advantage of it with such minimal protection.

Schneider can mitigate concerns by having a successful showing in April's draft. If the trenches are eventually solidified, Sam Howell should be given a fair chance to become a viable quarterback. Parting with a third-round selection (still have another) for a 23-year-old who has some promise could be a huge steal.

Seahawks Grade: A-

Commanders' trade grade

While Seattle is gambling on the possibility of Howell becoming a part of its big-picture plans, Washington is looking to build around his replacement. Maximizing return value by acquiring the No. 78 pick could give either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels a valuable contributor to lean on going forward.

With other veteran quarterbacks available, it was plausible to think that the trade market for Howell could shrink into oblivion. But his ability to nearly reach 4,000 passing yards without a high-end support system was enough to reel in the Seahawks. That is not to call John Schneider a sucker. The Seahawks are taking a calculated risk.

Though, the Commanders should be thrilled to turn a Day 3 draft pick into a Day 2 one. They can snag a starter or key depth piece by deciding to move on from their now-backup QB. New general manager Adam Peters is exhibiting good business sense and quietly positioning the team in an interesting spot for the next few years.

Obviously, all the praise he is receiving right now will vanish if Sam Howell turns into a franchise pillar with Seattle and Washington's incoming rookie proves to be a bust. But since we won't be able to make those determinations for a while, fans should be pleased by this outcome.

Honestly, supporters of both the Seahawks and Commanders are justified in feeling optimistic following this Thursday afternoon exchange. For now, I am declaring this a win-win that brings clarity to each franchise. It is not a tie, however, as one trade report card edges out the other.

Commanders Grade: A