The 2019 NFL Draft has come and gone for the Washington Redskins and while it is quite early to forecast what could occur in the 2020 draft, the front office may have a plan that involves the first round selection.
Let’s go back to late April and the first night of the draft when the Redskins selected Ohio St. quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick. Many fans and football media assumed the front office was done for the night, but the Redskins pulled off a stunning trade and moved back to the first round.
Montez Sweat, a likely top-10 selection, had been falling through the first round due to a perceived medical condition that did not exist. The Redskins brass made the bold move and snatched Sweat with the 26th overall pick. They surrendered their second-round choice and a second rounder in 2020.
Will the lack of second-round picks (this year and in 2020) hinder the team? That’s a very good, legitimate question and one that deserves our scrutiny. Having no second-round picks in back to back drafts can be a huge detriment to many teams, but the Redskins could actually turn this into a supreme positive. The trade that netted Sweat seems costly on the surface, but a closer examination reveals otherwise.
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Trading the 2019 second round pick and moving up to the first round startled fans the moment it happened. At that juncture, it was assumed that the Redskins would likely be surrendering a massive number of assets to select the prized Mississippi St. edge rusher – a surefire top-10 pick before the medical rumors were circulating.
Were players on the current roster a part of the sudden trade? Would it involve a 2020 first round selection? Would additional draft picks be included? All three (hypothetical) questions were answered within minutes. No players were part of the deal and the only other draft choice that was included in the trade was Washington’s 2020 second round pick. That is a very good price to pay for obtaining what is likely to be an elite pass rusher.
Redskins fans are still haunted by the outrageous trade that sent multiple picks over several years to the St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles) in 2012 for the right to move up four spots in the first round and select Robert Griffin, III. Griffin had a phenomenal rookie season, but we know how the story unfolded in the following years. That transaction hurt the franchise for years, but the trade for Sweat is much more palatable and the investment in him is certain to produce far better results.
So why should the Redskins trade away their first round pick in 2020? Two words – salary cap. The Redskins will face a dilemma in 2022 and 2023. The front office will likely need to spend heavily if they want to keep Haskins and Sweat. This is assuming both players have several good seasons in the burgundy and gold. Signing both players to new contracts in the same season is not likely to happen. Haskins would probably sign a new deal in 2022 and Sweat probably inks a new contract the following season. Such a plan would ease the burdens of hefty contracts.
If the Redskins trade their 2020 first round pick, they could ease the salary cap hits in the future as well. Although there are no assurances, second to seventh-round draft choices tend to earn second contracts that are of less value than first round picks. The Redskins could trade that 2020 first round pick and gain a second rounder or more. Great value can be found after the first round and the Redskins would regain a second-round draft choice. They would also be able to manage the cap hits more proficiently after 2022 and beyond.
An additional cap strategy in 2022 and 2023 could bring more trades of early round picks at that time, but it is too soon to know if that would be a viable option. Undoubtedly, the contracts for a young franchise quarterback and an elite pass rusher in consecutive years will not be cap friendly, but it can successfully be mitigated.