When I sat down to write this recap of where the defense of the Washington Football Team stands after two days of free agency, the team had lost two starters and had not picked up anyone.
But things happen fast in free agency.
By the fourth paragraph, news broke that the Washington Football Team had come to terms with former Bengals cornerback William Jackson III. Jackson thus joins Ryan Fitzpatrick, the likely starting quarterback in 2021, as one of the newest members of the Washington Football Team.
Jackson will step in for Ronald Darby, who signed on with Denver one day earlier. Jackson is a year older than Darby, but at 28, is still in the prime of his career. He has size and speed and is a true perimeter cover corner who can match up with opponents’ top receivers. Jackson has not lived up to his extraordinary 2017 season, but he remains a quality player. Backing up a formidable defensive front in Washington should help him play up to his high ceiling.
Washington saw other potential Darby replacements like Shaq Griffin and Janoris Jenkins go elsewhere. They probably were not as interested in slot corners like Mike Hilton and Desmond King. The reported terms of Jackson’s contract are reasonable, and this qualifies as a pretty big win for the Washington Football Team.
The Washington Football Team seems less likely to invest heavily in the defensive line this offseason, but they remain dangerously thin at linebacker. Kevin Pierre-Louis’ departure leaves only two linebackers – Cole Holcomb and Jon Bostic – who played significant snaps in 2020.
If Washington is looking for someone to step into KPL’s off-ball role, Tennessee’s Jayon Brown would appear to be an ideal choice. He is coming off an injured elbow toward the end of 2020, but assuming he recovers, his speed and athleticism make him an ideal weak-side linebacker. If Brown’s price tag gets too high, there are others, though Nicholas Morrow, who had reportedly drawn interest from Washington, re-signed with the Las Vegas Raiders early Wednesday. Eric Wilson and Alex Anzalone might be low-cost, younger options to compete for KPL’s spot.
Washington apparently also has an eye on another Raiders linebacker: Raekwon McMillan. McMillan was highly touted coming out of Ohio State in 2017, but he has been a disappointment. Unlike Brown and Morrow, McMillan has the physical tools to play the middle in a 4-3 alignment, but he would be a gamble based on his lack of productivity. His youth and his bargain price are the two things in his favor, and he could be brought on as one modest piece of a linebacking overhaul.
I would prefer a steady run stopper like Denzell Perryman. A platoon of Perryman on early downs and Bostic on later downs could result in one very solid middle linebacker room.
The other intriguing option is Kyle Van Noy, the versatile veteran who was recently released by Miami after just one season. Van Noy played through injury in 2020 and was not as effective as he had been for the Patriots through 2019, but he remains a solid blitzer who can play in multiple schemes either inside or outside.
Safety is the other main area of need. With Kamren Curl’s emergence and Landon Collins’ return, Washington is strong in the box. But they lack a true back-end defender with range.
It seems almost inevitable that Ron Rivera will eventually sign Tre Boston, a steady deep safety who played for Rivera in Carolina. But Malik Hooker, a talented but oft-injured safety for the Colts, may be appealing.
However, my choice for help at the back-end of the secondary would be Jaquiski Tartt, the versatile veteran who has spent his entire six-year career playing on some fine defenses in San Francisco. Tartt only has four interceptions in 66 career games, so he isn’t exactly a ball hawk. But he could be the steadying presence that this defense needs.
The Washington Football Team’s defense played better when the steady-yet-unspectacular Deshazor Everett moved into the lineup after Collins’ injury. Tartt is in that mold, but a decent upgrade from Everett.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Washington Football Team sign several linebackers, and least one safety, and another corner before free agency slows down. The team is fairly well-positioned with youth and talent across the defensive front, but if they find a bargain that they like, you can never have enough big men. If a pass rusher like Adam Butler is still floating around after a week, he could be a nice addition.
Now, let’s see what day three brings.