A recent history of bad Commanders free agent moves under Dan Snyder
By Jonathan Eig
Secondary Failure, PT 1, 2015, 2016
The signing of Josh Norman in 2016 felt like a return to the early days of Daniel Snyder’s ownership. A big-name free agent became available and nothing was going to stop Washington from claiming him. Norman had been a shutdown corner for Carolina, being named 1st team All Pro in 2015. But there were some who worried that Norman was an overachiever who got by on toughness and attitude more than on physical skill. He did bring some pizazz to Washington and for a time, he played pretty well. Then he slowed down and within four years, he was seen as one more free agent bust.
I think Norman was a pretty good player who was simply overvalued. Had Washington not shelled out a record-high $75 million dollars for him, I suspect he would not have been viewed as a failure. An arguably bigger mistake came one year earlier, in 2015, when Washington signed brash young cornerback Chris Culliver from San Francisco. Culliver was coming off his first really good year in 2014, when Washington ponied up $32 million for him. San Fran was eager to cut ties because Culliver had been a PR nightmare for them – making disparaging remarks about both gays and women. Culliver would suffer a knee injury during his first year in Washington, and would be cut in the following off-season.
Secondary Failure, PT 2, 2019 & 2021
These two are still fresh in fans’ minds, so I won’t belabor them. When Washington signed Landon Collins (2019) and William Jackson III (2021), they seemed like ideal fits. Collins could help solidify the safety position that had been in constant turnover since the Sean Taylor tragedy. Jackson could be the lock-down corner that every team wants. Their price tags were high, but both were young vets with proven track records. Collins performed well for a little while, then seemed to lose a step. Jackson never seemed comfortable in Jack Del Rio’s zone schemes, to the point that he even began to look lost in man coverage, which had been a strength. Bottom line – neither lasted even halfway through their contracts.
The Head Scratcher, 2006
Many of Washington free agent failures follow a similar storyline. Player was great – made the Pro Bowl for his previous team – then comes to Washington and flames out. But safety Adam Archuletta never made the Pro Bowl when he was with the Rams. Still, Washington offered an astonishing $35 million over seven years for a run-of-the-mill safety. Making this even more bewildering is the fact that it came during the Joe Gibbs years. Gibbs missed on a few receivers (David Patten, Antoine Randle-El, Brandon Lloyd, who came via trade), but in general, he was not prone to big free agent fiascos.
None of Washington’s veteran coaches – Marty, Joe, Shanny – made huge mistakes with free agents. But there was something about Archuletta – something which I don’t suppose we will ever know – that got him way more money than seemed rational at the time. Suffice to say that by mid-season, Archuletta was no longer playing defense for Washington. He was the highest-paid special teams personal protector the league has ever seen.