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Analysis | The Commanders lost to the Cowboys. Let the offseason changes begin.

The Washington Commanders’ disappointing season ended with a 38-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in front of a crowd full of Cowboys fans at FedEx Field on Sunday. The defeat extended Washington’s losing streak to eight games — the team’s longest such streak in a decade — and clinched the NFC East title for Dallas.

Washington started the season 2-0 and brimming with optimism. But its skid comes with a silver lining: The loss locked up the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft. And wide receiver Terry McLaurin reached 1,002 receiving yards for the season, becoming the first receiver in franchise history with four consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards or more.

Playing without many of their starters, especially on defense, the Commanders kept the game close for a quarter before Dallas piled on with four unanswered touchdowns in the second and third quarters, leaving Washington with little hope for a late rally. Dak Prescott picked apart the Commanders’ secondary for an 86.1 completion percentage, 279 passing yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 124.4 passer rating before sitting in the fourth quarter.

Sam Howell, meanwhile, connected on 70.4 percent of his passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. But he threw two interceptions and took four sacks. He heads into an offseason of uncertainty with a 5-13 career record as a starter in Washington.

Now the real fun begins. Here’s a look ahead at what could be coming.

Changes. A lot of them. And they could begin immediately.

After a 4-13 season, many people within the organization believe Coach Ron Rivera will be the first to go as part of a broad overhaul of the football operations.

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After four years in which Rivera has had final say over all football and personnel decisions, Washington is probably headed back to a more siloed structure. But it could follow a less traditional model. Once such possibility is the format of the Philadelphia 76ers, Josh Harris’s NBA team, which has a president as its primary executive and a GM as a secondary executive.

The search to fill that primary executive role should begin immediately, with the hope that the new executive can have input on the head-coaching hire and the rest of the staff. The staff could include some holdovers, but according to multiple people with knowledge of the group’s plans, Washington’s ownership group intends to empower that primary executive and the new coach to construct a staff that aligns with the owners’ longer-term vision.

For the executive role, NFL teams can begin to request candidates employed by other teams on Monday. If Washington decides to hire a candidate whose team is in the playoffs, that person can accept if their club grants permission.

Interviews for head coaches follow a different timeline. Teams can hold in-person and virtual interviews with internal candidates at any time, but they cannot request interviews with external candidates employed by other teams until Monday.

Candidates whose teams did not reach the playoffs cannot interview until three days after their final game. Candidates whose teams made the postseason can only take part in virtual interviews until after the divisional round; in-person interviews have to wait either until a candidate’s current team is knocked out or, for those in the Super Bowl, until the week between the conference championships and Super Bowl.

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How much will the roster change?

Contractually, there are really only two players — McLaurin and defensive tackle Daron Payne — who are locks (as much as any player can be a lock in the NFL) to return in 2024.

McLaurin signed a four-year extension worth about $70 million in 2022 and has become the face of the franchise. His contract carries a $29.3 million dead money charge for 2024.

Payne signed a four-year, $90 million deal last year that comes with a $37.4 million dead-money charge for 2024. So, they’re not leaving.

Others, including veteran Jonathan Allen, have more contract flexibility or smaller guarantees. It would seem unlikely the team would want to part with one of the league’s top defensive tackles. But it’s not out of the question if another team were to propose a trade; such a move would save $9.5 million in cap space and probably land Washington more draft picks.

Which players will become free agents?

Unrestricted (20): S Kam Curl, CB Kendall Fuller, RB Antonio Gibson, WR Curtis Samuel, QB Jacoby Brissett, S Jeremy Reaves, K Joey Slye, C Tyler Larsen, OT Cornelius Lucas, G Saahdiq Charles, DE James Smith-Williams, DE Casey Toohill, DE Efe Obada, LB Cody Barton, LB Khaleke Hudson, LB David Mayo, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Byron Pringle, FB Alex Armah, S Terrell Burgess

Restricted (3): RB Derrick Gore, LB, Jabril Cox, LB De’Jon “Scoota” Harris

Exclusive rights (3): DT David Bada, DT Curtis Brooks, LS Tucker Addington

What are the Commanders’ biggest roster needs?

Quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end, safety, linebacker, center, left guard, cornerback, tight end, running back, receiver and kicker. Basically everything.

What’s their salary cap situation?

The Commanders are set up well.

The NFL has not yet announced the salary cap for 2024, but based on a projection of $242.5 million, the Commanders are expected to have more than $85 million in cap room, the most in the league, according to the Spotrac.com.

The Commanders are carrying some dead money from the contracts of former players, including $4.05 million from former center Chase Roullier and $2.1 million from former guard Andrew Norwell, but it’s not enough to prohibit necessary spending.

The Commanders have nine picks, including the No. 2 selection and five picks in the first three rounds.

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