Here are five major roster questions as the offseason begins:
Will Williams and Scherff return to offensive line?
The team’s two best offensive linemen are both not certain to be playing in Washington in 2020.
Trent Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, missed all of 2019 when he held out until the trade deadline and then was placed on the non-football injury list, stemming from his frustration with the team over what he said was a misdiagnosis of a cancerous growth on his scalp. The relationship between Williams and the organization seemed beyond repair, but there’s hope for a reconciliation under Rivera and with a new head athletic trainer in Ryan Vermillion, following the departures of Allen and longtime head trainer Larry Hess.
Brandon Scherff’s situation is more straightforward. The three-time Pro Bowl guard and former No. 5 overall draft pick is a free agent and is expected to garner a contract that would make him one of the highest-paid players at his position. The Redskins have options: They could try to sign Scherff to a long-term deal, they could place the franchise tag on him to keep him with the team for at least one more year, or they could let him walk in favor of a less expensive player, perhaps 2019 fourth-round draft pick Wes Martin.
Will team move on from Kerrigan and Norman?
The organization has major decisions to make on a pair of high-priced veterans. Josh Norman is the second-highest-paid cornerback in the league and was benched down the stretch of the 2019 season. The team would save $12.5 million against the salary cap if he is released before June 1, and his departure seemed a foregone conclusion before the hiring of Rivera, who coached Norman during the cornerback’s best seasons with Carolina.
The team could also end a nine-year relationship with outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, which would save it $11.7 million. Kerrigan finished the season on injured reserve after not missing a game in his first eight seasons. Washington has two young edge rushers in Ryan Anderson (a second-round pick in 2017) and Montez Sweat (a first-rounder in 2019), and it could consider drafting Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young with the second pick.
What’s next at quarterback?
Rivera declined to anoint Dwayne Haskins as the Redskins’ future quarterback. Alex Smith said after the season that he still wants to play as he continues to recover from a broken fibula and tibia, but he offered no specifics on a possible timeline for his return. Smith’s contract continues to weigh heavily on Washington’s salary cap, and the team would have $32.2 million in dead money if it released the 35-year-old.
Both Colt McCoy and Case Keenum are free agents, and the team is likely to add another veteran quarterback.
“I think he can become a franchise-style quarterback,” Rivera said of Haskins. “It’s a process, though. I’m not going to say it’s going to happen overnight. Several years ago, we drafted [Cam Newton] as the No. 1 pick and we had a plan. What we’re trying to do right now is to develop that plan for [Haskins’s] development as we go forward.”
Can they find stability at tight end?
The best friend of a young quarterback is a talented tight end — a big body who works shorter routes and can shield off defenders. Haskins didn’t have that security blanket as a rookie, with Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis missing all and most of the season, respectively, with concussions.
Adding tight end help should be an offseason priority, because Reed has struggled to stay healthy and his seventh documented concussion could end his career. Davis turns 36 at the end of January and could also retire and focus on a budding acting career. Eric Ebron seems to be the top tight end set to hit free agency among an average class this offseason. The Redskins could also address the position in the draft.
Can they add more playmakers?
The Redskins got a pleasant surprise in rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin, a third-round pick who established himself as the team’s top wide receiver with his sharp route running and deep speed. Steven Sims Jr., an undrafted rookie, flashed with his return ability and his work as a slot receiver in the season’s closing weeks.
But Washington will need to add playmakers, particularly on offense. Rivera’s Carolina teams featured players such as Newton, Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olsen, each of whom ranked among the NFL’s best players at their positions.
One candidate to be let go at wide receiver is Paul Richardson Jr., who inked a $40 million deal in free agency before the 2018 season but landed on injured reserve the past two years. The team could release the six-year veteran, who managed 48 catches over two seasons.
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