But no decision was bigger than trading Dunbar to Seattle, which sent the Redskins a fifth-round draft pick in exchange, according to a person familiar with the agreement. The late-round selection in some ways seems to be a small return for a player viewed by many around the NFL as a potential No. 1 cornerback. But Dunbar had been vocal about his demands since January, when he emerged with them shortly after the franchise hired Rivera, potentially damaging Washington’s leverage in pursuing trade offers.
Dunbar, 27, was entering the final year of his contract and due $3.4 million — considerably less than what a productive cornerback is likely to receive on the open market. The gap between Dunbar’s perception of his value and that of the Redskins’ new regime seemed to put a wedge between the sides at a time when Rivera is seeking to establish a new culture in the organization.
It was a quick disintegration in relations between a team and player who had helped each other significantly since the Redskins converted Dunbar from an undrafted wide receiver out of Florida to cornerback early in his pro career. Dunbar developed into a solid starter during his tenure in Washington, although he battled injuries that limited his time on the field. Last season, he started 11 games, registering 37 tackles, eight passes defensed and a career-high and team-leading four interceptions.
This offseason, Dunbar remained vocal on social media that he wanted to leave Washington and go somewhere he felt more valued. Then, on Monday afternoon, he tweeted that he loved the fans and “everything about” the Redskins, but added: “from a respect [standpoint] it’s lost.”
Four hours later he was gone, part of an overhaul of Washington’s defensive backfield that included the release of another starter in Nicholson. A fourth-round draft pick out of Michigan State in 2017, Nicholson had developed into the Redskins’ starting free safety, but his time with the team will probably be better remembered for two off-field incidents.
In November, a woman overdosed on fentanyl at Nicholson’s home, and Nicholson and a friend dropped her off at the emergency room. The woman, Julia Crabbe, 21, was pronounced dead a short time later. Crabbe had been dating Nicholson for a few months, according to Crabbe’s family, and a search of Nicholson’s home the day after Crabbe died turned up marijuana, pills and foil with residue. Police said Nicholson was cooperating with the ongoing investigation, and no charges were filed.
In announcing Nicholson’s release, the team also said it was letting go four cornerbacks who had played sparingly: Breon Borders, Dee Delaney, Coty Sensabaugh and Kayvon Webster. Washington agreed to a contract with free agent Kendall Fuller last week, but the team could still be in the market for another cornerback to pair with Fuller and Fabian Moreau.
Earlier in the day the Redskins had announced they were re-signing Brantley, who will provide depth on the team’s strongest position group: its defensive line.
The team also added Allen in a trade with the Panthers. It’s unclear whether Rivera intends to have Allen compete for the starting job alongside 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, but at a minimum Allen is a young but experienced passer who is familiar with Rivera and new offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who coached Allen the past two seasons with Carolina.
Allen started 12 games in 2019 after Cam Newton went down in Week 2 with a season-ending foot injury. Allen played well at times, throwing for 3,322 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he also had 16 interceptions and stumbled in the season’s closing weeks as Rivera was fired and the Panthers’ playoff hopes dissolved.
Rivera has praised Haskins this offseason while also saying he won’t simply hand him the starting job. Allen figures to be able to push Haskins and serve as a potential safety net for the new staff should Haskins not develop as the Redskins hope.
Les Carpenter contributed to this report.