Christian Burt takes a look at the free agency moves so far in D.C; with an eye also on 26th April and the NFL Draft.
Agent Smith Lands in Washington
Off the back of a disappointing 7-9 season, the Washington Redskins and Kirk Cousins finally annulled what appears to have been a marriage of convenience that began in 2012. Washington kicked off the divorce proceedings by making a trade with Kansas City. In turn, the dependable Alex Smith will be heading to the nation’s capital.
Any guy who trains underwater (carrying rocks) — in the oceans off Hawaii no less — likely offers an instant entertainment upgrade, and Smith’s first presser was a master class of intelligence and composure. The cost, however, resulted in a promising talent heading in the opposite direction: CB Kendall Fuller.
It’s no coincidence that the ‘Skins faithful lamented the loss of Fuller more than that of Cousins. Be prepared to witness Kendall hit Pro-Bowl level in 2018. Conversely, Minnesota could well find themselves lamenting the absence of Keenum when Cousins gets the inevitable 1st and goal jitters.
In a deep draft, Washington also sacrificed their third round 2018 choice — a regrettable loss of a pick, especially when you consider the likes of Jordan Reed, Fabian Moreau and Fuller himself were taken in the third rounds in 2013, 2016 and 2017. They do, however, get a third rounder back in 2019 as a compensatory pick for Cousins departure.
I’ll give Alex Smith a sure-fire B+, but the loss of Fuller diminishes Washington’s business down to a B-. Importantly, however, Head Coach, Jay Gruden, and the Redskins front office undeniably have their guy in Smith. At long last, the QB in D.C is settled for the immediate future. You’d expect Smith to take snaps for the next 3 years minimum.
Filling an Immediate Need
The 2017 season saw a Washington receiving core that was frankly unlikely to scare too many NFL backfields, especially with the absence of DeSean Jackson.
Washington looks to address this in the shape of former Seahawk, Paul Richardson. #10 is a burner for sure, and, like Alex Smith, came across as a smart guy in the welcome press conference. Yes, we might not necessarily see a 1000-yard season from the 26-year-old, but the Redskins will be hoping Richardson can emulate the form he showed in 2017, where he made a career-high 703 yards and six TDs.
Washington has filled an immediate need via free agency with the five year $20 million guaranteed signature of Richardson and this gets a solid B grade. In 2017 the previously not thought of as a deep ball threat Alex Smith ranked #1 in deep ball accuracy in the entire NFL and the Skins will hope that trend continues into 2018.
As an aside, Jay Gruden is a creative play caller, but I’d hope Jay will avoid the sleight of frame Richardson taking too many crossing the middle plays.
Return of the Zach
ILB Zach Brown increased his already high popularity by signing a team friendly deal and will continue to add much needed speed at the position. Prior to his injury, Brown was leading the NFL in tackles, and the front office will only be hit for $2.7 million in 2018.
For a competitive ILB, Brown has previously tested the market — and the market has resisted a high pay day. Perhaps teams have concerns in coverage in a pass happy league. But at that price, the Redskins have done well to return a near-enough three down football player.
The Revolving Door
If concerns remain about how the Redskins function as a franchise, the revolving door of capable football players won’t necessarily allay those fears. Trent Murphy, Bashaud Breeland (pending injury), Ryan Grant, and Spencer Long — to name just four guys that are certainly more capable than Just Another Guy (JAG) — exit Redskins Park.
Nose Tackle has long remained a position that has not been addressed in Washington, and Jonathan Hankins visited before swiftly leaving the building. Hankins would likely alter the Skins pick at 13, but if he has left the building never to return, expect Washington to draft a Vita Vea or another Alabama DL Payne on the 26th April to plug the NFLs worst ranked rush defense. You’d expect Left Guard, Running Back and CB would also be on the Washington priority list in Draft 2018.
Smith equals medium term stability at the most sought after position (just see how much the Jets are giving up leading into the draft), and Richardson adds a much-needed downfield threat. Zach Brown is a fan favourite and tackles like a man possessed.
However, a quality vet on the DL has not yet been delivered, meaning the Redskins will likely be pushed into a NT type pick at 13 rather than a more talented guy, if the likes of a Hankins (or a Poe) are not suiting up in burgundy and gold in 2018.
Losing a still rookie contract legitimate future star in Kendall Fuller has been the saddest part of the whole Kirk Cousins saga –and the bitter taste of that particular part of the Smith deal leads me to, so far an overall B- grade for the Redskins. Sign a run stuffer like Hankins…and this would push into the B+ bracket.