The absurdity of this time of year is the certainty. Rumors fly in the NFL, with every nugget uttered in the days between the scouting combine and the draft carrying the promise of a definite truth, no matter how divergent those utterances might be.
Last week, Kiper said “there’s no doubt” Washington should pass on Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young with the second pick and take Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, as long as the team’s doctors are fine with Tagovailoa’s injured hip. Days later, King scoffed at the idea during an appearance on Dan Patrick’s radio show, saying: “The Redskins aren’t taking Tua. I can’t see it in a million years.”
The reality is, new coach Ron Rivera probably hasn’t settled on what he’s going to do with that choice, even as many coaches and talent evaluators from around the league suggest three scenarios: Draft Young, draft Tagovailoa, or trade the pick for multiple first-round choices. When asked at the scouting combine last week in Indianapolis whether he has an ideal trade, Rivera paused for five seconds before saying: “I have a wish list. I don’t think it’s feasible, though.”
What does seem certain is that Rivera does not want to do a slow build. Several times since his hiring Dec. 31 he has referred to his impatience and desire to win quickly, and he reiterated that sentiment at the combine.
“Our plan is to be competitive as quickly as we can,” Rivera said. “We’re not here to wallow around and build for something. We’re here to try and do it the right way, and if it takes a year, great. If it takes two, great. But our intent is to get it turned around as quickly as we can, but the right way.”
Here is a sense of where the Redskins stand on a couple of key issues coming out of the combine:
Rivera repeatedly has said he likes Dwayne Haskins, the quarterback Washington selected in the first round of last year’s draft. Several key team officials say publicly and privately that they, too, like Haskins. They talk a lot about the time Haskins has spent working out at the team facility and seem encouraged that he wants to take the Redskins’ receivers on a vacation so they can throw together and build a bond.
Rivera also insists he will have a quarterback to compete with Haskins, whether it’s Alex Smith, who is still rehabilitating from his devastating 2018 leg injury, or a player currently outside the organization. When pressed on how serious a battle he wants that quarterback to wage with the still-developing Haskins, Rivera deemed it “very competitive competition.”
Many coaches and talent evaluators talking off the record at the combine said they believe Rivera will sign a starting-level quarterback in free agency, a player talented enough to push or even potentially beat out Haskins for the starting job — but not one who will demand an outrageous contract. Among the names mentioned most were the Tennessee Titans’ Marcus Mariota and the New Orleans Saints’ Teddy Bridgewater, though some speculated that Case Keenum, who started several games for Washington last season, could be a possibility, too.
Yes, the Redskins met with Tagovailoa and LSU’s Joe Burrow at the combine and probably will bring both in for visits at the team’s practice facility, but this is something typical for a team in Washington’s position. As Rivera said last week, you “never know” what will happen as the draft draws near, and he seems aware of the fact that disguising the team’s intentions with the second pick could have an effect on the quality of trade offers the team receives for it. So, even though drafting a quarterback at No. 2 remains a possibility, none of the team’s actions to this point are necessarily a signal that they are ready to move on from Haskins.
Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff
The Redskins have met with both players in recent days. With roughly $61 million in salary cap space and two weeks remaining before free agency starts, Washington has to figure out what it will do with its top two offensive linemen. Rivera has said many times that protecting the quarterback — whether it’s Haskins or someone else — is a top priority.
Rivera seemed outwardly content with conversations he has had with both players. Scherff, a free agent, is a candidate for the franchise tag if he and the team can’t agree on a long-term contract extension. Williams’s situation is more complicated after he did not play last season because of a dispute with previous team president Bruce Allen.
Several people inside the organization have been encouraged by Rivera’s initial talks with Williams, and Williams has engaged with people inside the building other than just Rivera. One person with knowledge of the situation described the lone issue holding up a Williams return as “financial.”
Of course, money is always the biggest issue. Williams’s agent approached the team late in 2018, not long before cancer was discovered on Williams’s scalp, asking for a contract extension. Williams said in November that the team refused, saying it didn’t want to hand out a new contract two years in advance.
His demands are likely to be similar now. If he is going to return, he will want a new deal that is in line with what a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle would make on the open market, a figure that could approach $19 million per season, following the $18 million-per-year extension signed by Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson last year. Williams has leverage, too: The free agent tackle market is thin. But that is a hefty price — especially for a player who will be 32 when next season starts and has had injury issues — and the Redskins will need to weigh their options while also considering a long-term deal for Scherff and other spending in free agency.