Position: Defensive end
Height: 6'3" Weight: 297 lbs
Drafted: Seventh round, 244th overall by the San Francisco 49ers (2009)
The Washington Redskins signed Ricky Jean-Francois in late February after he was cut by the Indianapolis Colts, who were paying him starter money to play a reserve role. His contract with the Skins is much more reasonable, and he should provide an immediate upgrade to the defensive line.
#1. As a three-year player at LSU, Jean-Francois excelled when he was able to stay on the field. He piled up 27 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss, and three sacks in his redshirt freshman season, earning Freshman All-SEC status by the coaches and First Team Freshman All-American status by Sporting News. He followed up his stellar freshman campaign by missing most of his sophomore year with academic problems, but he returned in time to help the Tigers to victories in the SEC Championship Game and the BCS Championship Game. He blocked a field goal and recorded six tackles in the latter contest, earning Defensive MVP honors and boosting his draft stock once more.
Then came his comments the following October, when he suggested he wanted to injure then-reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. RJF quickly apologized and clarified that he wanted to "try to make him ineffective," but the damage was already done. Florida routed LSU, 51-21, behind a dominant performance by Tebow, handing the Tigers one of their worst losses in years. Jean-Francois also injured his groin that season and failed to distinguish himself on the LSU defensive line, causing his draft stock to plummet, hence the eventual fall to the seventh round.
#2. RJF played in just three games as a rookie, the final three of the 49ers' season, and recorded no stats, but he played in all 16 games in each of the next three years, mostly as a backup defensive tackle. He left San Fran and signed with the Indianapolis Colts for an eyebrow-raising four-year, $22 million deal in 2013, a contract many around the league balked at. It's perhaps worth mentioning that it was the same GM — Ryan Grigson — who gave LaRon Landry a four-year, $24 million deal that same offseason.
Jean-Francois was decent but not exceptional with the Colts, and he was being paid like an exceptional player, so the fact that he was released less than two years later seemed inevitable. Washington brought him aboard for a much more reasonable price; he provides great value for the deal, and the Redskins can cut him at any time if need be. Like many of the free agents brought aboard this offseason, Jean-Francois has ties to new Redskins GM Scot McCloughan, who drafted the defensive end in 2009 for the 49ers.
#3. The easiest way to look at RJF is as a replacement for Jarvis Jenkins, the former second-round pick who never lived up to expectations for the Redskins and signed with the Chicago Bears this offseason. He will primarily serve as a backup defensive end, though he could rotate to the interior at times. He and Chris Baker should be the first two linemen off the bench, and with Terrance Knighton being the only true DT expected to make the team, his versatility will be especially valuable.
#4. Of Haitian descent, Jean-Francois helped lead the NFL's aid of Haiti following the massive earthquake the small country suffered in early 2010.
#5. Does anybody know what time it is?
No, really, what time is it?
For what it's worth, I'd love to see RJF and Alfred Morris collaborate on a dance or celebration this year. After all, the PBJ dance already has a home run swing in it, it shouldn't be that hard to incorporate Alf.
Bottom Line: The versatile backup is expected to have a role similar to Chris Baker, and each player should expect heavy situational usage. If Knighton or Baker goes down at any point, Jean-Francois is a good bet to pick up the slack at nose tackle, but otherwise he'll spend most of his time at either end. He has so far proven durable, having played in all 16 games in four of his five seasons since becoming a full-time player, and — barring something unexpected happening — RJF should be with the Redskins for at least two seasons.