2017 NFL Offseason: Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins (Last Year: 8-7-1)

2017 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Brian Quick, DT Terrell McClain, DT Stacy McGee, OLB Chris Carter, ILB Zach Brown, S D.J. Swearinger.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/DT Jonathan Allen, DE/OLB Ryan Anderson, CB Fabian Moreau, RB Samaje Perine, S Montae Nicholson, TE Jeremy Sprinkle. Redskins Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Pierre Garcon, WR DeSean Jackson, C Kory Lichtensteiger, C John Sullivan, DT Chris Baker, DT Ricky Jean-Francois.

2017 Washington Redskins Offense:
The Redskins dealt with numerous issues this offseason, none bigger than the drama surrounding Kirk Cousins. The team franchise tagged him for the second year in a row, despite his wishes. Washington seems unwilling to extend him with a long-term deal under the financial terms Cousins desires, so the two sides have been at a standstill. There were rumors that Cousins would be dealt to the 49ers so he could play for Kyle Shanahan again, but a trade like that will have to wait until next spring.

It could be argued that the jury is still out on Cousins being a franchise quarterback or not, but there’s no debating that he’s close; he threw for nearly 5,000 yards last season (4,917, to be exact), and he has completed 69.8 and 67.0 percent of his passes the previous two years, maintaining YPAs of 7.7 and 8.1. He has thrown 54 touchdowns compared to only 23 interceptions in that span. The numbers are there to confirm that he is a franchise signal-caller, but it could be pointed out that he has enjoyed a terrific supporting cast, and that he wouldn’t be nearly as potent with lesser talent around him. Based on what happened this offseason, it’ll be quite apparent how good or great Cousins is after the 2017 campaign.

The Redskins lost both of their starting receivers this spring, as Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson defected for San Francisco and Tampa Bay, respectively. Losing Jackson isn’t such a big deal, especially with Terrelle Pryor coming in via free agency; Pryor didn’t meet Charles Woodson’s expected 1,800 yards in 2016, but he did eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier in his first year as a full-time receiver, and he has some great potential. The Garcon loss, however, will be very painful. Garcon was Cousins’ favorite receiver, and he was such a reliable player because of his elite route-running ability.

With Garcon and Jackson gone, the Redskins’ top three receivers will be Pryor, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. The latter is a nifty slot receiver who caught 67 passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. Doctson, meanwhile, had just two receptions in as many games as a rookie, as injuries ruined his first year in the NFL. However, he was a first-round pick, so he has great upside. Cousins will also rely on Jordan Reed when the athletic tight end is in the lineup. Reed has never played a full season, but he’s been very productive when on the field.

There were some changes made in the receiving corps, so it’s a good thing for the Redskins that their offensive line remained intact. Washington has one of the best blocking units in the NFL. Trent Williams is arguably the top tackle in the pros, while Morgan Moses has blossomed into a terrific right tackle. Brandon Scherff has been great at guard, while center Spencer Long hasn’t been horrible. The only weakness up front is at the other guard slot, currently occupied by Shawn Lauvao.

The Redskins don’t have the best running backs, as Robert Kelley will compete with rookie Samaje Perine to be the lead back, while Chris Thompson will continue to serve as the third-down player. Kelley would ideally be a No. 3 runner on a team, and Perine doesn’t project to be much better, but because of the great blocking, Kelley was able to average 4.2 yards per carry. Perine should have similar success if he overtakes Kelley.

2017 Washington Redskins Defense:
The Redskins ranked third in yards gained this past season, but ultimately didn’t make the playoffs because of their defense. They were 28th in yardage allowed, so it was clear that the general manager-less front office had to bolster the stop unit to ensure that its team would be playing into January this year. That would explain why Washington spent its first three selections on defensive players.

It was unbelievable that Jonathan Allen fell all the way to No. 17. Once projected to be the second-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Allen slipped because of some concerns about his shoulder. This, however, did not impact his play last year, when he was the best player in college football and would have won the Heisman had the voters had any clue. Allen is exactly what the Redskins needed because they lost their best defensive lineman, Chris Baker, to the Buccaneers in free agency. Thus, even though Allen was a great selection, the Redskins still have holes up front in the wake of the Baker departure. Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee were signed in free agency, but both are backup-level players.

Washington’s next selection was used to upgrade the edge rush, as Ryan Anderson was another Alabama product added to the roster. The Redskins already had a solid pass-rushing duo in Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, but Murphy, entering his contract year, has been suspended for four games for PEDs. Anderson will compete with Preston Smith to start across from the elite Kerrigan in those four contests. Smith had a strong rookie campaign in 2015, recording eight sacks, but saw that figure dip to five last year.

The third-round pick was spent to help a troublesome secondary, as Fabian Moreau was added to the mix. Moreau had borderline first-round talent, but slipped to the third frame because of injury concerns. If Moreau can get on the field, he should challenge Bashaud Breeland for the right to start across from shutdown corner Josh Norman. Breeland has played well in the past, but was torched on a regular basis in 2016. Kendall Fuller, a 2016 third-rounder, is also in the mix.

Rounding out the secondary, wholesale changes were made at safety. Su’a Cravens, a former inside linebacker, will move to strong safety. He’ll be joined by newcomer D.J. Swearinger, who played for the Cardinals last year. Swearinger had a great 2016 campaign and was rewarded with a 3-year, $13.5 million contract. The Redskins will be better at defending the pass this upcoming season, especially if Breeland can rebound.

With Cravens vacating inside linebacker, the starters there are expected to be the newly acquired Zach Brown and Mason Foster. Brown has endured an up-and-down career, but is coming off a peak, as performed well for the Bills last year. Foster, meanwhile, played on a high level in 2016. Will Compton will also be in the mix, but he is better served as a backup.

2017 Washington Redskins Schedule and Intangibles:
The Redskins have an awesome fan base, which makes it strange that they are just 27-39 as hosts the past eight years. They were 4-4 in 2016, compared to being 4-3 on the road.

Washington’s special teams were quite mixed. The team outgained its opponents on punt returns by a wide margin, scoring once in the process. However, the kickoff team had a worse average than the opposition.

Punter Tress Way ranked 26th in net average, which is far from ideal.

The Redskins need to think about getting a better kicker. Dustin Hopkins was 34-of-42 last year (3-of-7 from 50-plus), missing three extra points in the process.

Washington has a brutal schedule to begin the year. Six of its first eight opponents are teams expected to contend for the playoffs this year (Eagles twice, Raiders, Chiefs, Cowboys, Seahawks).

2017 Washington Redskins Rookies:
Go here for the Redskins Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2017 Washington Redskins Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2017 Washington Redskins Analysis: The Redskins lost some offensive weapons, but they still have Kirk Cousins and a great blocking unit. They also made some nice upgrades to their defense. They’ll be in the playoff mix, but some off-field distractions and the departure of Pierre Garcon could make them struggle to get over the hump once again.

Projection: 8-8 (3rd in NFC East)

2017 Projection: 9-7. 2016 Actual Result: 8-7-1.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B Grade

Goals Entering the 2017 NFL Draft: It would be nice if the Redskins could figure out what they wanted to do with Kirk Cousins prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, whether that’s extending him or trading him to the 49ers. I don’t see that happening, however, as it takes Washington eons to do anything. In the meantime, the Redskins need to fix their troublesome defense and add some play-making talent around their quarterback.

2017 NFL Draft Accomplishments: When I wrote that the Redskins had to fix their troublesome defense, I never would’ve imagined that they’d do so by selecting a top-two talent in this class with the No. 17 overall selection. Allen plummeted despite once being in consideration for the No. 2 pick, thanks to his troublesome shoulders. However, Allen was the best player in college football last year – he should have won the Heisman – so his shoulders didn’t seem to affect him then. I have a feeling the concerns were overblown.

The Redskins addressed each level of their defense after that. They found an edge-rushing linebacker in Ryan Anderson in the second-rounder, so I’m sure Allen would be pleased to be paired with his Alabama teammate again. Anderson was a reach, however, though the same can’t be said about third-rounder Fabian Moreau, who may have been chosen late Thursday night if he didn’t have injury concerns. Still, he’s someone who has great athleticism, as he might be able to run with Odell Beckham Jr.

Washington’s third day was all over the place. There were some nice value selections like Samaje Perine and Montae Nicholson, but there were reaches as well, such as Jeremy Sprinkle and Chase Roullier. Inside linebacker should’ve been addressed earlier as well.

As a whole, the Redskins had a solid draft, especially considering that they were rudderless without a general manager. Bruce Allen deserves credit for steering his team in the right direction and improving the roster with this class.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

17. Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama: A+ Grade
I bet the Redskins never would’ve imagined in a billion years that they’d land Jonathan Allen in the 2017 NFL Draft without trading up. Allen is a top-three prospect, but has fallen because of a shoulder issue. I’d say his shoulders must be bad, but he has been tremendous at Alabama, and his shoulders definitely weren’t an issue last year when he was the best player in college football. Washington is getting an insane steal with Allen, who will fill a huge need for them in the team’s poor front seven.

49. Ryan Anderson, DE/OLB, Alabama: C+ Grade
I think we can safely say that the Redskins really like Alabama prospects who don’t test well analytically. They’ve paired Jonathan Allen with Ryan Anderson to bolster their front seven, and Anderson makes sense because Washington needed help at the position. However, Anderson was a third-round prospect in my rankings, so I think this is a bit of a reach. It’s not egregious though, so I’m not going to grade this too harshly.

81. Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA: A Grade
Fabian Moreau may have gone in the first round if he didn’t have any sort of injury questions. Moreau, however, tore his chest and it’s unclear how soon he’ll be ready to play. Still, Moreau is a talented cornerback with outstanding athleticism. He has so much upside, and he could emerge as someone who can run with Odell Beckham Jr. effectively. This is a great pick, and he’s worth the risk.

114. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma: A Grade
I had Samaje Perine bouncing around the second and third rounds, so I love the value here atop Round 4. Perine also fills a need, as the Redskins just had Robert Kelley at running back. Perine isn’t an explosive runner, but he’s a solid back who catches the ball well.

123. Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State: B+ Grade
Montae Nicholson was drawing consideration from another team in the fourth round, so I believe the range to be correct. He fills a need for the Redskins, who had to add a safety to potentially start in a year or two.

154. Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas: C Grade
Finally, a tight end who doesn’t provide great value in the fifth round. On the contrary, Sprinkle was taken a round or two too early. Sprinkle projects as a very good blocker, but has some off-the-field issues.

199. Chase Roullier, C, Wyoming: C+ Grade
Center makes sense for the Redskins, as Spencer Long is an impending free agent after this season. However, I didn’t think Chase Roullier, a poor athlete, was going to be drafted, making this a bit of a reach. I don’t hate this pick though.

209. Robert Davis, WR, Georgia State: B+ Grade
Robert Davis has the potential to emerge as a starter in the NFL. He was highly productive at Georgia State and then tested extremely well at the combine. He played at a small school, but Davis has great athleticism. He’s a very nice pick for the Redskins, who needed a receiver to replace free agency departures.

230. Josh Harvey-Clemons, ILB, Louisville: A- Grade
Had Josh Harvey-Clemons been clean off the field, he may have gone in the second round. Unfortunately, he has failed multiple drug tests throughout his collegiate career. Still, I had him in the fifth frame, so I think he offers very good value at this spot. Why not take a chance on him at No. 230?

235. Joshua Holsey, CB, Auburn: C Grade
Joshua Holsey is a limited player with multiple knee injuries in his past. This isn’t a horrible pick, but the Redskins could’ve done better.

Season Summary:
The Redskins had a great opportunity to make the playoffs. All they had to do was beat one of the Cardinals, Panthers and Giants. They lost all three games down the stretch. Kirk Cousins was horrible in the final two contests, but now Washington has to decide what to do with its inconsistent quarterback.

Offseason Moves:
  • Redskins sign ILB Zach Brown
  • Redskins sign WR Brian Quick
  • Redskins sign DE/OLB Chris Carter
  • Redskins re-sign DE/DT Ricky Jean-Francois
  • Redskins re-sign DT Ziggy Hood
  • Redskins sign WR Terrelle Pryor
  • Redskins sign S D.J. Swearinger
  • Redskins sign DT Stacy McGee
  • Redskins sign DT Terrell McClain
  • Redskins re-sign TE Vernon Davis
  • Redskins announce retirement of C Kory Lichtensteiger

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: The Redskins need to figure out what they’re doing with Kirk Cousins, first and foremost. I honestly don’t know what I would do. On one hand, losing a talented quarterback like Cousins would really hurt. On the other hand, he’s not good enough to warrant an Aaron Rodgers-type contract, and paying him that sort of money would ruin the team’s depth. Cousins should just realize that he’s being very selfish and unreasonable, but then again, I don’t fault him for chasing as much money as possible.

    2. Two Defensive Ends: After the Redskins determine their plan for Cousins, they’ll need to shore up the middle of their defense, which is extremely weak. It’ll only get worse if Chris Baker leaves via free agency. Washington will have to find only one new defensive end if Baker is retained. Signed Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee

    3. Inside Linebacker: Here’s another upgrade for the weak interior. Mason Foster was a solid player for the Redskins at inside linebacker, but help is desperately needed next to him. Signed Zach Brown

    4. Safety: DeAngelo Hall was lost for the year in the early stages of 2016, but the Redskins already needed help at safety. It’s unclear if Hall will continue to perform on a high level, given his age. Signed D.J. Swearinger

    5. Guard: Washington fielded one of the better offensive lines in the NFL this past season. The lone weak spot up front was at one of the guard positions. That can be addressed in Rounds 3-5 of the 2017 NFL Draft.

    6. Running Back: Robert Kelley is a fine running back, but he shouldn’t be handling most of the workload.

    7. Cornerback: I don’t know what happened to Bashaud Breeland, but he really regressed in 2016. Perhaps he’ll bounce back, but if not, the Redskins will have to look into picking up a new cornerback.

    8. Wide Receiver: Josh Doctson better pan out because both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are impending free agents. The Redskins will need a new No. 1 wideout if both leave. Signed Terrelle Pryor

    9. Punter: Tress Way has maintained one of the worst net punting averages over the past couple of seasons.

    10. Kicker: Dustin Hopkins is just 5-of-11 from 50-plus in his career thus far.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2017 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Terrelle Pryor, WR, Browns. Age: 28.
      Signed with Redskins (1 year, $8 million)

      Terrelle Pryor didn’t quite reach Charles Woodson’s projected 1,800-yardage mark, but he established himself as a dynamic weapon and a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Pryor is still learning the position and had to deal with pedestrian quarterbacks all year, so he could be even better in the next couple of seasons.

    2. Zach Brown, ILB, Bills. Age: 27.
      Signed with Redskins

      Zach Brown was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but had done nothing in his career prior to 2016. Teams thought so little of him that the Bills managed to get him for a 1-year, $1.25 million contract. Brown responded with a terrific 2016 campaign, even winning AFC Defensive Player of the Week once.

    3. D.J. Swearinger, S, Cardinals. Age: 26.
      Signed wih Redskins (3 years, $13.5 million)

      The Texans gave up on D.J. Swearinger after spending a second-round pick on him back in 2013. Perhaps they did so prematurely, as Swearinger performed well for the Cardinals in 2016. He missed some tackles, but was generally decent in coverage.

    4. Terrell McClain, DT, Cowboys. Age: 29. — Signed with Redskins (4 years, $21 million)
    5. Stacy McGee, DT, Raiders. Age: 27. — Signed with Redskins (5 years, $25 million)
    6. Brian Quick, WR, Rams. Age: 28. — Signed with Redskins
    7. Chris Carter, DE/OLB, Colts. Age: 28. — Signed with Redskins

    Washington Redskins Free Agents:

    Salary Cap Space: $66M
    1. Chris Baker, DE/DT, Redskins. Age: 29.
      Signed with Buccaneers (3 years, $15.75 million)

      Chris Baker was the lone bright spot on the Redskins’ dismal defensive line this past year. He was a force against the run and also generated a good amount of pressure on the quarterback, collecting 4.5 sacks, which is a solid number for a player at his position. The downside is that Baker turns 30 in October, but he should be able to play on a high level for at least two more years.

    2. Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins. Age: 29.
      Franchised by Redskins

      Kirk Cousins is very difficult to grade. Sometimes he plays like a 4.5-star player; over the past two years, he has thrown for 54 touchdowns and just 23 interceptions, completing 68 percent of his passes in the process. However, Cousins occasionally performs like a street free agent, melting down at the worst times possible. The Redskins have a very difficult decision to make regarding his contract, and I have to say that I’m happy I’m not in their shoes.

    3. Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins. Age: 31.
      Signed with 49ers (3 years)

      Pierre Garcon turns 31 in August, but he should be able to play well for quite a while because of his elite route-running skills. Garcon caught 79 passes for 1,041 yards in 2016.

    4. DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins. Age: 30.
      Signed with Buccaneers

      DeSean Jackson produced the fifth 1,000-yard season of his 9-year pro career in 2016, but turned 30 in the process. Jackson will continue to be a downfield threat in 2017, but he’ll lose his deep speed soon enough, so he shouldn’t be signed to a long-term deal. The scuttlebutt is that Jackson is headed back to Philadelphia.

    5. John Sullivan, C, Redskins. Age: 32.
      Signed with Rams

      John Sullivan was once a very skilled center for the Vikings. I don’t know why he was a backup this past year, but Sullivan should be someone’s starting center. He turns 32 in August, but interior blockers can perform on a high level well into their mid-30s.

    6. Chris Thompson (RFA), RB, Redskins. Age: 26.
      Tendered by Redskins

      Chris Thompson has been one of the NFL’s better third-down backs over the past couple of seasons. Though he doesn’t carry the ball very much, Thompson caught 49 passes in 2016.

    7. Will Compton (RFA), ILB, Redskins. Age: 27.
      Tendered by Redskins

      Will Compton is a smart linebacker, and he called Washington’s defensive plays, but he happens to be a big liability in run support.

    8. Ricky Jean-Francois, DE/DT, Redskins. Age: 30. — Signed with Packers (1 year, $3 million)
    9. Kedric Golston, NT, Redskins. Age: 34.
    10. Duke Ihenacho, S, Redskins. Age: 28. — Signed with Giants
    11. Donte Whitner, S, Redskins. Age: 32.
    12. Greg Toler, CB, Redskins. Age: 32.
    13. Ziggy Hood, DE/DT, Redskins. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Redskins
    14. Vernon Davis, TE, Redskins. Age: 33. — Re-signed with 49ers
    15. Cullen Jenkins, DE/DT, Redskins. Age: 36.
    16. Terence Garvin, ILB/ST, Redskins. Age: 26. — Signed with Seahawks
    17. Josh Evans, S, Redskins. Age: 26.
    18. Silas Redd (RFA), RB, Redskins. Age: 25.
    19. A.J. Francis (RFA), NT, Redskins. Age: 27.
    20. Rufus Johnson (RFA), DE/DT, Redskins. Age: 27.


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