We’re now two week into free agency, and while the Redskins have yet to make a blockbuster move that this franchise is generally associated with, they have put an emphasis on building depth. The team has particularly shored up the trenches with three moves to build up the offensive line as well as at linebacker, where the team has brought in three players as they transition into a 4-3 defense.
Despite not getting some of the major players they were linked with early in the offseason (See: Austin Hooper, James Bradberry, Amari Cooper), there’s still a lot of time left for them to make some big-time moves in the next few weeks.
Let’s see how newly-hired Ron Rivera has fared so far in his first offseason as head coach.
G Brandon Scherff-Franchise Tag
This move was a must, especially with Ereck Flowers signing with Miami and Trent Williams presumably being shipped off soon. Scherff has been rock-steady in Washington since he was drafted fifth overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, and although injuries have hit him the last two seasons, he’s simply too vital to this team.
Locking him up lock term would be preferable, but as of right now, the tag is a good option to at least buy the team so more time to negotiate with Scherff’s camp. This is a strong start to the offseason.
G Wes Schweitzer-3 years, $13.5 million
While Schweitzer certainly doesn’t appear to be an immediate starting option (Falcons writers have been quite forthcoming on that opinion), he does at least present an experienced option to compete with second-year guard Wes Martin, who I thought played pretty well in his first preseason. It is nice that Schweitzer is just 26 years old and is on a pretty favorable contract. At the very least, he’ll provide some depth at a position where we desperately need it.
LB Jon Bostic-2 years, $6.6 million
Rivera must have liked what he saw from Bostic last year because it looks like his one-year audition paid off with a nice two-year contract. Bostic was one of the nicer surprises this season after Reuben Foster went down early in the season. In fact, he was an upgrade over whatever Mason Foster would have given us. Sure, Bostic isn’t great in pass coverage, but he is pretty good against the run and does have the athleticism and experience in the middle to adjust well into the 4-3. I think this is a nice way to reward a player coming off a career-year.
CB Kendall Fuller-4 years, $40 million
In what’s been my favorite move of the offseason so far, the Redskins brought back a familiar face in slot corner/safety Kendall Fuller, who’s fresh off a Super Bowl victory with Kansas City. A lot’s changed for Fuller since he was part of the Alex Smith trade: he got some experience at safety, he made a game-sealing interception in the Super Bowl and he received a pretty nice payday for his efforts.
I expect Fuller plays predominantly in the slot once again, but I’ll be interested to see how Jack Del Rio plays around with his versatility. Regardless of where he plays, we already have a good idea of what we’re getting with this pickup. Fuller’s great at anticipating routes, he’s got good tracking speed on the deep ball and he’s a willing tackler against the run. I love this move.
LB Thomas Davis-1 year, $3.5 million
It’s hard to believe Thomas Davis is still playing football at the age of 37, especially at a position like linebacker, but here we are. Honestly, Davis was pretty solid with the Chargers last season, racking up a team-high 112 combined tackles in 16 starts. That’s pretty London Fletcher-esque if you ask me. After watching some film, it looks like he still has a surprising amount of pep in his step too.
Honestly, I think this is a pretty underrated move. Davis is already familiar with Rivera’s style of coaching as well as the brand of defense he wants to implement, and I think that, even if he doesn’t start, he’ll be big in helping the rest of the linebackers adjust to this new style. Plus, it’s only $3.5 million for a year; I’d say that’s pretty team-friendly.
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis-1 year, $3.5 million
I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Kevin Pierre-Louis after we signed him, but a bit of sleuthing around the world wide web made me realize that this might be a steal for Rivera. In three spot-starts due to injuries, Pierre-Louis played some impressive football. He showed patience in filling gaps in the run game and he displayed strong coverage ability thanks to some impressive speed (he ran a 4.51 in the combine). I think Pierre-Louis has a legitimate chance to earn a starting spot this season, and with the one-year prove-it deal, I think Rivera’s banking on him coming into this season with a chip on his shoulder.
S Sean Davis-1 year, $5 million
Another prove-it deal on the defensive end, though I’m not as excited about this one. Sure, Davis has three years worth of starting experience and some pretty nice highlights, but he’s a season removed from a torn labrum and even before that he was just average at best. I do like his experience as both a free and strong safety, and he did play fairly well in 2018 when moved to free safety full time (his 69.7 PFF rating was 59th in the league overall and a career-high), but I’m not banking on Davis coming in and becoming an immediate starter.
As of this writing, the Redskins do have a hole at the free safety position after releasing Montae Nicholson, so Davis does hypothetically have a shot at becoming a starter, but I imagine the team will look for a better talent in free agency.
TE Logan Thomas-Contract details not yet disclosed
This might be the first signing that I wasn’t a fan of. The team has a massive need at tight end, but I don’t think Thomas is anything more than a camp body. He certainly hasn’t proven to be a starter in the league, but the former Virginia Tech quarterback does have a unique athleticism/size skillset that will prove somewhat intriguing in preseason. I wouldn’t bet money on him surpassing Jeremy Sprinkle as the second-string tight end though.
I do know that this team needs to get something going at this position. The draft isn’t too deep at the position, and starter-level free agents are quickly being snatched up. Rivera is losing time, and it’s getting to the point where something needs to be done as soon as possible.
DE Nate Orchard-Contract details not yet disclosed
Orchard, like Bostic, was another rare bright spot in Washington last season. A former second-round pick in 2015, Orchard was largely considered a disappointment in the league when he signed with the Redskins in November, his sixth team in as many seasons. In the team’s game on Nov. 27 against the Panthers, Orchard came out and delivered a career-best performance, sacking Kyle Allen once and also recovering the game-ending fumble in an epic goal-line stand by a depleted Redskins defense.
Despite not doing much else, it was enough to convince Rivera, who was fired as head coach of Carolina after that game, to give him another look. Orchard will now have a chance to perhaps finally stick with a team in his career, though it’ll probably be more as a depth guy considering the options the team already has on the edge. Still, it’s a cool story, and I’m a fan of Rivera rewarding a guy who worked his tail off late in the season.
RB J.D. McKissic-2 years, $3.25 million
McKissic was the signing that truly solidified the departure of Chris Thompson who, despite injury concerns during his entire seven-season stretch in D.C., was a beloved player by this fanbase. We’ll all miss you, CT.
But back to McKissic, I’m actually surprised we decided to sign someone despite Bryce Love apparently being good-to-go for next season. I think Love has an exceptional ceiling and I would have assumed that he’d have gotten a good amount of carries behind Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson. Rivera wasn’t kidding when he said every player will have to earn their jobs on this team.
Despite that, McKissic was a pretty good player in Detroit last year. He displayed the quick twitch shiftiness and receiving skills needed to be a quality change-of-pace back in this league. Plus, he’s proven to be durable, something neither Guice or Love has been able to prove yet in their young careers. Look for McKissic to compete for some serious playing time next season.
OT Cornelius Lucas-2 years, $5.3 million
It’s hard to tell if this move means Rivera has found his starting LT or has just found some more depth on the line, but either way I think Lucas was a good signing. Personally, I see him as more of a swing tackle in a similar vein to what Ty Nsekhe brought (both are mammoth linemen with similar size for the record).
Playing in all sixteen games to go with six starts in 2019, Lucas looked pretty good, allowing one sack on 507 snaps. He also was without a single penalty all season. That is a pretty huge upgrade over Donald Penn’s six sacks and 10 penalties on 885 snaps at LT. Sure, the sample is larger for Penn, but at 29 years of age, Lucas is just a much more promising player at the position. This is another underrated signing by Rivera.
DT Caleb Brantley-Contract details not yet disclosed
Before a season-ending foot injury in preseason, Brantley was having a pretty dominant training camp along with fellow interior lineman Tim Settle. Once a potential Day 2 draft prospect, Brantley’s always had the potential on the field to be a solid player in this league, but injuries and off-the-field issues have plagued him his entire NFL career.
I’m not sure Brantley ever lives up the promise he once showed at Florida, but this season should be the last chance he has in D.C. to figure it out.
TRADE: QB Kyle Allen for a 2020 5th Round Draft Pick
Obviously a fifth-round pick is a bit too high for a backup quarterback, but I think this was still a pretty smart decision by Rivera. Kyle Allen’s familiarity with Scott Turner’s offense and Ron Rivera’s coaching style gives him a nice advantage in the quarterback room, and while Allen might not have the natural arm talent that Dwayne Haskins does, his experience in the Panthers’ offense last season as well as a few games of solid production (particularly early in the 2019 season) will at least make this some kind of competition for Haskins to earn the starting job this season.
I’m more a fan of getting Allen than I am of going for someone like Jameis Winston or Cam Newton, who would just take reps away from Haskins and turn the locker room (as well as this fanbase) inside out. Haskins doesn’t need that, and neither do we. Allen’s a capable backup who could in spots provide some competent play if we ever needed him to. For a fifth round pick, I’d say that’s worth it.
TRADE: CB Quinton Dunbar to Seattle for a 2020 5th Round Draft Selection
Oof, I understand we were at a disadvantage in this situation because of Dunbar’s openness on social media about wanting a change of scenery, but one Day 3 pick just seems like way too little for a player like Dunbar. Sure, Dunbar’s had injury trouble his entire career (he’s never played an entire season in his career), but he’s also developed into a seriously talented No. 1 cornerback in his time in D.C. His development from an undrafted wide receiver to a mid-tier starting cornerback was one of the cooler things we’ve seen with this team over the past few years, and it’s a shame they couldn’t come to an agreement to keep him around.
We do have to consider how the trade market’s been set this offseason though before getting too mad about that haul we received in this trade. A fifth is obviously poor, but a cornerback of Darius Slay’s stature gave Detroit just a third and a fifth round pick in their trade this offseason. On paper, it just didn’t seem likely that Washington would get a fair return for Dubar; I think I was just hoping for something a little better than what we ended up getting. I’m sure Dunbar will fit in just fine in Seattle, and if I’m the Seahawks, I’d consider this a huge steal.
RB Peyton Barber-2 years, $3 million
Another move that has me scratching my head. On one hand, this is a really favorable contract for the Redskins, who are giving Barber just $600k in guaranteed money. Also, Barber is a proven commodity at the position; he was a solid running back in Tampa Bay the last few seasons, even leading the team in rushing in 2018 with 871 yards on 234 carries. He’s a talented back, with the size and strength to pound it in the middle and the cutting ability to push it outside for additional yardage down the sideline.
But on the other hand, is he someone we really need? I understand Rivera’s want for competition and having players earn their jobs, but we are looking at a group that already has Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Bryce Love and J.D. McKissic in the fold. This group already seemed pretty set, so it’s curious to me why they’d add in another guy. We’ll see how it plays out closer to the regular season, but this should be a very interesting competition to watch.
TE Richard Rodgers-Contract details not yet disclosed
Similar to the Logan Thomas signing, I just don’t know what this team’s plans are at this position. Does Rivera think we’re set at this position, or is there going to be another move in free agency or in the draft for a more reliable starting tight end? Because as it stands, we have Jeremy Sprinkle and Hale Hentges returning from last year along with Thomas and Rodgers and that’s pretty much it. Not great, Bob.
If this were after the 2015 season, I’d be thrilled. Rodgers was fresh off of a very promising season where he hauled in 58 catches for 510 yards and eight touchdowns. He never lived up to that statline again, and is now coming off two consecutive season-ending injuries after signing with the Eagles in 2018. I seriously doubt this team is done at this position, but looking at the pretty much dried up free agency market and an upcoming draft that’s seen to be relatively weak at the position, I’m just not sure we’re going to be very strong at this position during the season.
G Jeremy Vujnovich-Contract details not yet disclosed
I’m sure everyone’s sick of hearing me say the word “depth” in this post, but that’s exactly what this move is, and that’s fine. I don’t have much on Vujnovich as a player besides the fact that he started 16 games in Indianapolis during the 2017 season at left guard and appeared in five games in 2018 with Arizona, but from what I’ve heard, he’s nothing more than a backup at best. We’ll get a closer look in the preseason, but I’m just happy the team has decided to put an emphasis on depth on the offensive line.
WR Cody Latimer-Contract details not yet disclosed
There have been indications that the team has been trying to get a veteran compliment to Terry McLaurin for next season, and while the 27-year-old Latimer does fit the bill as a veteran presence, I’m not sure he’s what people had in mind. I don’t think the team is done at this position, but to me, Latimer serves as some much needed veteran depth at a position that’s largely filled by younger guys like McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims Jr.
Latimer had a career season with the Giants in 2019, racking up 24 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns (all career highs). He’s certainly shown to be a solid deep threat, using his length and hops to win 50/50 balls. I like the move honestly, and I think Latimer could be a surprisingly strong contributor for this offense. Don’t expect this team to be done at wide receiver though.