As the Washington Redskins intensified their efforts to land former Cowboys defensive lineman Jason Hatcher in the opening days of free agency, the ninth-year veteran heard a lot of things that he liked – so much, in fact, that he accepted the team’s offer a day before he was even scheduled to fly to Northern Virginia to visit Redskins headquarters.
Hatcher, a Pro Bowl selection in 2013 following an 11-sack season, said the chance to remain a part of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry and a member of the NFC East strongly appealed to him. The Redskins’ use of respected cornerback DeAngelo Hall as a recruiter impressed Hatcher, as did the excitement that Redskins coaches displayed in their talks. Washington’s offer – a four-year deal worth a reported $27.5 million with $10.5 million guaranteed and a $9 million bonus – sealed the deal.
“As I said in an earlier interview, they kind of blew the doors off, got me in the price range I was looking for,” Hatcher said during a conference call with reporters assigned to cover the Redskins. “It wasn’t all about the money at the end of the day, but it was about the fire that those guys had for me as a player and the respect they had, and those guys believe I can bring something to this organization as a player and help this team win.”
Hatcher visited the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday and the Oakland Raiders on Thursday. He was scheduled to visit Ashburn on Friday, but he accepted Washington’s offer soon after his visit with Oakland concluded.
Further discussing the appeal of playing for the Redskins, he said, “Just the rivalry, man. Just to get back to smash-mouth football, and just to get back at the Cowboys. It’s going to be a very exciting game when I go back down there to play the Cowboys. I’m looking forward to it. That’s one of the main reasons, the rivalry, to stay in it. If you come out of here and win the Super Bowl, you’ve earned it. It’s one of the hardest divisions in football.”
Hatcher, who turns 32 this year, is coming off of his most productive season and his third full campaign as a starter. He said that despite his age, serving as a backup for five years helped preserve him.
“I definitely feel great,” the 6-foot-6, 299 pounder said. “God works in mysterious ways. It was a painful process to sit behind guys for five years, but it makes sense to me now. I’m 31, I’m at my prime and at my peak and I’m in a great organization and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to win a Super Bowl.”
Hatcher played defensive tackle in Dallas’s 4-3 front last season, and prior to that primarily played right end when the Cowboys utilized the 3-4.
Redskins coaches, according to Hatcher, plan to use the lineman in a variety of ways, however. The team uses the 3-4 front in base packages, but on passing downs, they shift to more of a 4-3. Hatcher said, based on talks with coaches during the courtship process and during his visit to Redskins Park Friday, he will not have one set position.
“I’m going to move around a lot,” he said. “You’ll see me all over the field like I did a couple years ago in Rob Ryan’s system. I played the nose, right end, tackle, and so I’m excited. They’re going to use me to my strengths, like I said, which is to disrupt.”
He added, “As far as the scheme, that’s up to the coaches. I’m going to be able to do a lot of stuff I’ve been doing. They’re not going to try to change me at all. I’m a vet, so they’re going to let me be as effective as I can. They’re not going to bring me in and try to change me. I’m still going to be getting upfield and causing havoc.”
Hatcher describes his game as a blend of power and speed. He says the blend, plus strong hands, enable him to keep opponents off-balance.
He said coaches will give him the freedom to play to his strengths rather than force him into a rigid role. The ability to use his creativity excites Hatcher.
“My game was just getting upfield and causing havoc, not just sitting back and reading blocks. I was able to use my quickness to shoot gaps and that really took my game to another level. Here, it’s a 3-4 and a lot of guys will think I’m going to sit back and read blocks, and be a sitting duck. But they’ve got some great stuff for me so I’ll be able to get upfield and cause havoc.”
Having faced the Redskins twice a year for the past eight seasons, Hatcher has good familiarity with the team’s personnel. He also is good friends with defensive end Stephen Bowen. He could have chosen to go to a team in more of a win-now mode than Washington. But he said the fight the players exhibited despite their poor record impressed him and made him want to join them and help spark a rebound.
“Just playing against those guys,” he said. “They had a 3-13 season like that and they were losing, and I played against them but they didn’t slow down at all. Guys fought. That meant a lot to me and was part of my decision as far as going to the right team and playing with the right guys. What I can bring to this team with my veteran leadership, I’m going to come in and get with the other leaders and just work my butt off, and we’re going to take this team to another level.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
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