The Washington Football Team currently has 64 players under contract (not counting those signed to the Practice Squad). As of today, 27 of those 64 are scheduled to become free agents at the conclusion of the 2021 season. The roster, which had seemed so promising a few short months ago, clearly remains a work-in-progress.
So, as we twiddle our thumbs during this bye week, let’s take a quick look at those 27 impending free agents and figure out what the Washington Football Team should do about them.
MUST RE-SIGN – None
I’m going to take the glass-half-full view here. There is not a single player amongst the 27 for whom the Washington Football Team needs to break the bank. That is a good fiscal position to be in. (The glass-half-empty view would note that it also speaks to a general lack of talent.)
SHOULD RE-SIGN – Leno, Jr., McKissic, Settle, Carter
Charles Leno, Jr. has not been a dynamite player. He has merely been what he has been throughout his career – a decent professional left tackle. He should have several more years of solid play and he seems to fit the profile of the athletic big man which the current regime favors. That, and the difficulty in securing a quality left tackle, makes him a priority.
There was never any doubt about JD McKissic’s effectiveness as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Just his ability to stay healthy. So far, he has done that in Washington, and he is a valuable part of Scott Turner’s offense.
Tim Settle is caught in a logjam at defensive tackle. He will draw interest from other teams. If the Washington Football Team decides to make re-signing Daron Payne a priority, then they almost certainly cannot afford Settle. I think they will negotiate with Payne, but will not break the budget for him. That means Settle becomes very important to them. Can he hold up and play at a high level if asked to shoulder a bigger load? We’ll find out.
I would have wanted to keep DeAndre Carter based on his return ability alone. Having a professional returner back there – and not just some generic speedster – has been one of the few bright spots for the team in 2021. His potential as a pass catcher just adds to his value.
AT THE RIGHT PRICE – Cornelius Lucas, Cam Sims, Bobby McCain, Kyle Allen
These are borderline priority guys, but you need to know your ceiling and not exceed it.
Lucas is a very good swing tackle. Problem is, he wants to be a starter, so I don’t think Washington will be able to re-sign him. It was apparent in 2020 that he was better than the day-one starter Geron Christian, Jr, and that was borne out after Christian’s injury. But he was again demoted when Leno was signed. He simply does not fit the profile of the athletic tackle the team seems to want. I think he would be fabulous insurance if a deal can be reached.
The receiving corps was supposed to be much better this season with the additions of Samuel, Humphries and Brown. So far, we have not seen it on the field. That’s why Sims remains in play. He is not as fast as Denver’s Tim Patrick, a player he otherwise resembles, but he has proven he can be productive.
I can hear some of you howling already at the inclusion of McCain. I’ll just say this. Bobby McCain can play both free safety and slot corner, and until the first half of 2021, he did both reasonably well. The Washington Football Team defensive backfield has been a train wreck in 2021 and I’m not convinced it is only the fault of the players. Unless you are convinced that Darrick Forrest is ready to start, McCain can help going forward.
I have already had my say on Kyle Allen. The Washington Football Team desperately needs a starting quarterback. Allen is not that guy. But he is an above-average backup. That has value.
WOULD BE NICE TO KEEP – Darryl Roberts, Torry McTyer, Adam Humphries, Tyler Larsen, Jared Norris, Jordan Kunaszyk, Danny Johnson
These seven players can offer something to the team, but only at minimum contract levels.
Roberts and McTyer were both seen as upgrades to the cornerback depth, and both were injured before they had much chance to show anything. You always need corners, so assuming full recovery, they could have a role.
Humphries has shown little so far, but he has been a decent slot receiver, and given the team’s lack of productivity at receiver in general, you can’t necessarily toss guys like that away. The caveat here is that if you envision either Dax Milne or DeAndre Carter becoming your primary slot player – which is very possible – then Humphries shifts into a different category, which you will see below.
Larsen is a solid veteran backup center. Chase Roullier has been an ironman for the Washington Football Team, but his injury in the Denver game goes to show how fleeting that can be. Larsen seems ideally suited for this role.
Norris and Kunaszyk are both special-teamers who came from Carolina. Neither has gotten many snaps on defense, and given the team’s dearth of linebackers, that suggests that neither ever will. Norris seems slightly ahead of Kunaszyk, but he is hurt right now and Kunaszyk isn’t. I think you can keep one or the other. Keeping both in 2022 would be an admission that you still have not fixed your linebacking woes.
Danny Johnson is just a pro. He can return, he can gun, he can be an emergency corner. He certainly will not be a major reason for success or failure, but he’s the kind of guy you are glad to have around.
PROGRESS STOPPER – Ricky Seals-Jones
RSJ is a good pass-catching tight end. He will have a place in the league in 2022. But if it is in Washington, that means that young players John Bates and Sammis Reyes will be not as far along as we all hope. Bill Parcells called vets like this “progress stoppers,” because they stood in the way of the youngsters you needed to develop. RSJ is a good player, but he needs to go to allow Bates and Reyes to sink or swim.
BTW – this is the category that Adam Humphries gets shifted into if you think Milne or Carter is ready to be your primary slot receiver.
QUESTIONS MARKS – Dylan Cantrell, Jalen Jelks, David Steinmetz, Jace Sternberger, Corn Elder
We just don’t know enough about these players. Some, like Sternberger and Elder, are young vets who we have seen play in limited roles for other teams. Others, like Cantrell and Jelks, have been around for a while without getting a chance to play. The book is out on all of them.
SHOULD BE GONE – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jon Bostic, Troy Apke, David Mayo, Chris Blewitt
Fitz was always likely to be one and done. I suppose he could have some miraculous second half resurgence, but at his age, I don’t think it’s likely. Washington needs to find it’s quarterback this off-season. If it is a rookie, they can let Kyle Allen or Taylor Heinicke start the beginning of the 2022 season until the rookie is ready. If it is a veteran free agent or trade acquisition, then he starts immediately, with Allen or Heinicke backing him up. Either way, there’s not a role for Fitz.
I am not as down on Bostic as some seem to be. He’s a good player who would have been better off had the Washington Football Team stayed in a base 3-4, which is what they played in 2019 when he first arrived. But age, injury, and lack of production have now tracked him down.
Apke probably should have been gone after 2020. He is a good special teamer, but how many of you would prefer to have Jimmy Moreland back instead of Apke? I think I see every hand going up.
Mayo should have been a role-player on this defense, playing inside on running downs. The fact that he has not carved out a spot, given the linebacking deficiencies, say all you need to know.
In the first draft of this essay, I had Blewitt in the Question Mark category. That was before the Denver game. Three blocked kicks in his first two games mean that he will probably be gone before this piece is published.
WILL BE GONE – Brandon Scherff
I suppose stranger things have happened. Scherff’s injury history may depress his market a lot more than he anticipates. But I can’t believe some team will not throw big money at a consistent Pro Bowler, and Washington will not match it. I doubt it would matter even they did. If Brandon Scherff wanted to remain here, a deal would have already been struck.
That’s the 27. None of them – not even the first four – matter nearly as much as the quarterback question. That is priority one and two this off-season. Priority three is negotiating an extension for Terry McClaurin. Priority four – a similar extension for Cole Holcomb. Figuring out what to do with Payne and Ereck Flowers are on par with the priority free agent re-signings mentioned above.
So maybe decisions about these 27 players don’t seem all that important. As we all know, you won’t hit on all of your roster moves. But you have to hit on them more than you miss. Getting most of the decisions right or wrong about the 27 impending free agents in 2022 will have a major impact on the Washington Football Team over the next several years.