The Washington Redskins began the new decade by parting ways with team president Bruce Allen. In a corresponding move, they hired two-time Coach of the Year Ron Rivera to lead their new team and develop a new culture. By extension, rebuilding the Redskins will be a focus in the 2020 offseason.
Rivera has assembled a majority of his coaching staff, and once he makes a decision on his offensive coordinator, it will be time to start making some roster decisions. From cuts, extensions, and free agency, to the NFL Draft, this first offseason could be pivotal. Luckily, Rivera’s hands aren’t exactly tied when looking at the resources he has. With some proper cap management and salary dumps, the Redskins could be looking at over $60 million in cap space, and they also hold onto the second overall pick.
If the Redskins can outline a plan, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to find success immediately while also setting themselves up for the future. If I was in charge, these are the steps I would take that I believe would instantly make the Redskins a team competitive enough to fight for the weak NFC East, especially considering they’ll be facing a last-place schedule next year.
Step One: Completing the Coaching Staff
Redskins Coaches for the 2020 Season
- Ron Rivera – Head Coach
- Jack Del Rio – Defensive Coordinator
- Nate Kaczor – Special Teams Coordinator
- Randy Jordan – Running Backs
- Jim Hostler – Wide Receivers
- John Matsko – Offensive Line
- Steve Russ – Linebackers
- Chris Harris – Secondary
Current Coaching Vacancies: Offensive Coordinator*, Quarterbacks, Tight Ends, Defensive Line
*Kevin O’Connell is currently under contract but his future with the team remains unclear.
Candidates tied to Washington
- Kevin O’Connell – Offensive Coordinator
- Scott Turner – Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks
- Sam Mills III – Defensive Line
- Pat Shurmur – Offensive Coordinator
Who to hire
- Offensive Coordinator: Kevin O’Connell
- Quarterbacks: Scott Turner
- Tight Ends: Pete Hoerner
- Defensive Line: Sam Mills III
These hires make the most sense to me. Kevin O’Connell developed a strong relationship with Dwayne Haskins in 2019, and when he finally got the keys to the offense in Week 15 and 16, the unit impressed. If O’Connell works out, it’s likely he’ll find a head coaching job somewhere in the near future. That would be a perfect window for Scott Turner to slide in as the future OC.
Hoerner and Mills III are both Panthers coaches who have been with the organization for a number of years, but with a new owner and coaching regimen, they may find themselves on the outside looking in. This would lead to a doorway for two quality coaches to find themselves back with Rivera in the nation’s capital. These hires would provide the Redskins with a quality coaching staff filled with both veteran experience, and fresh young innovation.
Step Two: Cuts and Trades
The Redskins have a number of players whose salaries are heavily affecting the salary cap, despite them not actually benefitting the ball club. If the Redskins can move some of these salaries, it could give them the cap space to make a serious impact in free agency and fill out some of the holes still on the roster.
So the Redskins can’t actually cut Alex Smith, or they’ll be in salary cap hell. The Redskins do have an insurance policy on Smith for about $12 million, but that money likely wouldn’t be seen by the team until after the duration of Smith’s contract. His contract ends after the 2023 season.
There has been some rumored interest in a trade for Smith, should he be able to return to football this season, primarily from the Bears. The Bears have also made some poor contract decisions, such as giving tight end Trey Burton $8 million a year. So, for this theoretical trade, the Redskins send the Bears Smith and the Bears send over Burton and a sixth-round pick. Both players get a body at a need and dump a rough contract.
Washington Receives: TE Trey Burton, 6th Rounder in 2020
Chicago Receives: QB Alex Smith
Josh Norman was made the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history after failing to reach a long-term deal with the Carolina Panthers. At the time, the signing seemed like an excellent decision. However, this past season, Norman’s play took a nosedive, and he was benched for nearly half the season because of it. The Redskins can choose to release Josh Norman and save $12.4 million in cap space.
Jordan Reed was at one point the most dynamic receiving tight end in the NFL. However, injuries have decimated his career and it seems as though he’ll never find a way to remain healthy. Through no fault of his own, it’s time for the Redskins to move on. By cutting Reed, the Redskins will save approximately $8.5 million.
Paul Richardson was expected to come in and change the Redskins offense for the better. He was meant to provide a field-stretching threat who could challenge the defense vertically and open up space over the middle of the field. Unfortunately, health and QB play have kept Richardson from reaching his potential. The Redskins now have Terry McLaurin, whose skill set is very similar to Richardson’s. Richardson’s contract has an opt-out this offseason, and by cutting him, the Redskins would save $2.3 million and only be liable for $6 million of the rest of his contract.
Total Money Saved: $21.6 Million
Current Cap Space: $63.8 Million
Step Three: Extensions
The Redskins have a number of players ready to hit free agency, some that would be heavy losses if they were to walk. They also have a certain disgruntled left tackle that could look to return to the team after missing all of 2019. After the roster moves we just made, the Redskins are looking at about $63.8 million they can spend. This is more than enough to keep some of their priority free agents.
First and foremost, the Redskins have to get Trent Williams back. Williams has apparently told running back Adrian Peterson that he would be willing to return as long as they “pay me, and take care of me.” Well, the Redskins moved on from team president Bruce Allen and long-time head trainer Larry Hess, two people Williams had a distaste for. Now that the Redskins plan to “take care” of Williams, they just need to pay him. Williams at his peak is the best left tackle in football and expects to get paid as such.
The highest-paid tackle is currently Lane Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles at $18 million a year. Due to Williams’ age, and the fact that he didn’t play a down of football last year, it’s unlikely he’ll get $18 million anywhere. However, the team should be willing to give Williams about $16 million and add three years on to his current contract. That would keep Williams signed until 2024.
Proposed Extension: 3 years, $48 million, $32 Million Guaranteed
Since Williams’ absence, Brandon Scherff has held the mantle as the Redskins’ best offensive lineman. Redskins fans have humorously brainwashed themselves to believe that Scherff wasn’t good this year, or that he isn’t worth top guard money. This is wrong, as Scherff was still a Pro Bowl-level player, and deserves to be paid as such. The Redskins must invest in Haskins, and keeping his two best offensive linemen around is a great way to do so. Scherff will be the highest-paid guard in the NFL next season. The question is simply by what team?
Proposed Contract: 5 Years, $70 Million, $55 Million Guaranteed
Ereck Flowers was maybe the most surprising story of the Redskins season. Many memes were made when people found out he’d be starting at left guard for the Redskins, but Flowers played the best football of his career. He was a solid piece at guard and would likely only improve if Trent Williams returned. Flowers earned himself a new contract. However, I believe a short-term deal is still in the team’s best interest, considering Flowers has played just one season of average football.
Proposed Contract: 2 Years, $8 Million, $6 Million Guaranteed
The Redskins still need a backup quarterback and that role is perfect for Case Keenum. He showed against the Giants that he can lead a team off the bench and has the competitive spirit to save a team’s season if something were to happen to the starter. If Keenum would be willing to stay for cheap, he’d be a welcome addition.
Proposed Contract: 2 Years, $8 Million, Fully Guaranteed
Wendell Smallwood: 2 years, $2 Million
Nate Orchard: 1 Year, $850,000
Treyvon Hester: 1 Year, $750,000
Salary Cap Remaining: $44.5 Million
Step Four: Free Agency
After those extensions, the Redskins still have a few holes. The most glaring ones are tight end, linebacker, and free safety. Cornerback, wide receiver, and right tackle could also stand to be upgraded. The Redskins have plenty of youth, but lack veteran leadership at certain positions. So that will factor into each signing, as will draft position and future needs.
This has been a pairing that I’ve fallen in love with. The Redskins have a lot of young talent at receiver. However, they lack any real veterans, especially after cutting Richardson in this simulation. Meanwhile, A.J. Green’s time in Cincinnati could be coming to a close, as his contract is up. If the Redskins can pair Green with guys like McLaurin, Sims, and Harmon, the unit would possess superstar talent, depth, veteran leadership, and youth. Want Dwayne Haskins to be successful? Surround him with the best possible supporting cast. Due to his recent injury history, Green would likely come cheaper than his talent and production would typically dictate. Another option to fill this role could be Alshon Jeffrey if the Eagles were to move on.
Proposed Contract: 2 Years, $32 Million, $24 Million Guaranteed
Alexander proved to be one of the top nickel cornerbacks in the NFL over the past two years, and slot cornerback happens to be what I view as the Redskins second-biggest need. Alexander would be an excellent fit and a much-needed boost of talent to the secondary, without breaking the bank. He’s also only 26 years old.
Proposed Contract: 4 Years, $40 Million, $25 Million Guaranteed
As the Redskins transition to the 4-3, their linebacker talent, or lack thereof, is going to be heavily exposed. While they have some talent, they lack someone who I comfortably believe can play the SAM position or strong-side linebacker. Schobert fits the bill at 6’1, 245. He’s well-built and excellent at navigating traffic. He also shouldn’t command huge money.
Proposed Contract: 4 years, $36 million, $22.5 Million Guaranteed
Earlier, I traded Alex Smith to the Bears and received Trey Burton. That move makes me feel more comfortable with signing Henry, despite his injury history. Many Redskins fans have expressed interest in Austin Hooper, but I believe Hooper will leave free agency as the highest-paid tight end in NFL history. With that being said, I actually believe when healthy, Henry is a better player with a higher upside. It’s that “when” that will likely deter teams from giving him a big contract. The Redskins should look to capitalize on a deal front-loaded with guarantees.
Proposed Contract: 3 Years, $27 Million, $18 Million Guaranteed
2020 NFL Draft
The Redskins have been blessed (via being terrible) with the second overall pick. It also happens that the best draft prospect in at least three years is expected to be there when they’re selecting. The Redskins did a good job filling holes in free agency, and by re-signing Trent Williams, it gives them the freedom to select the best available player. The rest of the 2020 NFL Draft will be used for depth purposes while potentially finding one or two more starters.
Round 1, Pick 2: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
As I stated earlier, Chase Young is the best player in the class, and the best prospect since Myles Garrett. With the moves made earlier, the door for the Redskins to take Young has been blasted off; it’s all but a certainty. The only thing standing in their way is the Bengals, and there’s a certain LSU QB that they seem to have their eye on. Young will be a Redskin, and the Redskins defense will become one of the top units in the NFL when you include the signings of Schobert and Alexander, while also getting a healthy Reuben Foster back.
Round 3, Pick 66: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Josh Jones is someone many project to be a riser in the draft process. He has elite length standing at 6’7 while maintaining great weight at 310. His physical abilities are everything you want in a left tackle, but he’s going to need some time before he can be a quality starter. Spending some time as a backup learning behind Trent Williams would be great for Jones. He can then serve as a replacement for Morgan Moses and the heir apparent to Trent Williams.
Round 4, Pick 98: Antoine Winfield Jr, S, Minnesota
One of my favorite players in the class, Antoine Winfield Jr. could become an immediate starter at free safety for the team. His range and ball skills are excellent, and he’s not afraid to come up and make contact. Adding to a defense that should already be strong, Winfield Jr. could be the final piece to the puzzle.
Round 5, pick 130: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
With the age of Adrian Peterson and injury history of Derrius Guice, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest in another running back that can work in between the tackles. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Guice were teammates and great friends at LSU, and pairing them back together would be a great boost to the depth of the RB position.
Round 6, Pick 176 (via Chicago in earlier trade): Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon State
Isaiah Hodgins is a well-polished receiver with desirable physical traits. He’s a strong route runner and excellent when the ball is in the air. However, with a lack of great career production, relatively low school reputation, and less than ideal speed, we could see him slide down draft boards. Hodgins would be a welcome addition to the receiving corps, and when he’s ready, he could be the guy opposite of Terry McLaurin.
Round 7, Pick 193: Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia State
Kindle Vildor has an alpha mentality and some talent to go with it. He was a shutdown guy at Georgia State and was able to hold his own against an elite LSU receiving unit. He’s got the kind of mentality you want in a cornerback, and he’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Kindle Vildor is a baller. Remember the name.
Round 7, Pick 206 (via Denver): Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii
McDonald has huge arm talent, and a competitive spirit to boot. However, he makes brain-numbing errors and has been benched in multiple games. If you want the Cole McDonald experience, watch his 2019 film against Arizona and BYU. His talent is undeniable, and in time, he could be a valuable piece behind Dwayne Haskins.
With these moves, the Redskins would be set up to compete for a weak NFC East in year one under Ron Rivera, while also being set up extremely well for the future. An 2020 offseason like this could go a long way toward rebuilding the Redskins complete change the future for the franchise.