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The 5 O'Clock Club: Poll Rewind - Priority free agent re-signings

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Redskins Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Welcome to the Poll Rewind series!

As you probably know already, each 5 o’clock club post ends with a poll question. Usually, the results are forgotten within a day or two, but no longer!

Over the course of the off-season (From now to July 2018) we will be re-visiting some (not all) of the results of polls that were published from June to December 2017.

Several of the writers on Hogs Haven — Ken, Mark, James Dorsett & Cadillactica — have agreed to help me out with the poll reviews by adding commentary so you aren’t stuck with my voice all the time.

For today, though, the comments are mine.

We go back to 30 July 2017, when the Redskins were in training camp. The poll that day — taken during pre-season — asked which player not named Kirk Cousins should be the highest priority free agent re-signing in 2018.

If you were the Redskins GM, which of the following non-QB players would you give #1 priority to for a big-dollar contact next season?

  • Terrelle Pryor 63%
  • Zach Brown 13%
  • Spencer Long 7%

“Prove it” deals

Terrelle Pryor and Zach Brown both hoped to get high-dollar deals done in the 2017 off-season after putting up big performances in the 2016 season. Both of them came to the Redskins on one-year deals only after they were unable to get the deal that they were looking for. Both were aiming to show that they were worthy of a bigger contract in 2018 and beyond.

They had different outcomes.

Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor had been a one-man-gang in Cleveland, as their leading receiver, sometimes quarterback and occasional rusher.

Pryor didn’t get the contract offer he expected from the Browns, and when he didn’t agree to their offer, Cleveland signed Kenny Britt to a 4-year, $32.5m contract, making Terrelle Pryor the odd-man out. Coming to Washington and playing with Kirk Cousins in Jay Gruden’s sophisticated passing attack was supposed to give Pryor the opportunity to show that he was a legitimate NFL receiver and not just a one-year flash in the pan at Cleveland.

Interestingly, things didn’t work out so well for Cleveland or Kenny Britt.

On March 9, 2017, Britt signed ... with the Cleveland Browns. After recording just 18 catches in nine games, he was released by the Browns on December 8, 2017. It was also reported that Britt requested his release. Browns fans did not connect with Britt and he became a pariah in Cleveland. After losing the Super Bowl with New England, Cleveland Fans celebrated Kenny Britt losing.

Despite the enthusiasm fans felt for Pryor in preseason, it’s fair to say that things didn’t really work out for him in Washington.

Jay Gruden said, after announcing that Pryor was being put on IR for the balance of the season, that Pryor had played hurt most of the season, but it seemed like an empty after-the-fact apologist explanation.

Pryor has traded a couple of tweets this offseason that indicate he might be happy to return to the Browns in 2018. Of course, Pryor is extremely active on Twitter, so it’s hard to read too much into one or two Twitter replies. Taking a look at his Twitter account, it’s obvious that he’s working hard this offseason, and equally clear that he’s rebabbing from a real injury.

It’s unlikely that the Redskin front office will try to bring Pryor back after his disappointing campaign in which he caught just 20 passes for 240 yards and appeared at times to be wearing boxing gloves when trying to catch passes during games.

There was so much excitement for Pryor last off-season, that many of us want to hold onto the hope that the player really can perform in Jay Gruden’s offense, and that he could return this year and deliver on the promise that he seemed to bring with him in ‘17.

However, if his return to the Redskins were to be announced today, it would likely be met by a muted, and slightly bemused response from Redskin fans, who might be willing to accept a low-dollar, non-guaranteed contract if Jay really thought Pryor could do it, but would be skeptical along the lines of “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.

At the end of July last year, most fans saw Pryor as an integral part of the Redskins future, with the team having just lost Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson. Today, re-signing Terrelle Pryor would be a hard-sell to a disappointed fan base. He’s largely seen as a poor fit for Gruden’s timing based offense.

With Kirk Cousins apparently gone and Alex Smith at quarterback, with Smith’s greater propensity for moving the pocket, scrambling and going ‘off script’, there’s a chance that Pyror could fit better with the Redskins in ‘18 than he ever did in ‘17.

I doubt we’ll ever get the chance to find out, though.

Zach Brown

It couldn’t be more different for linebacker Zach Brown, who came to the team last season — like Pryor — on a one year “prove it” deal. The big difference for Brown? He proved it.

Zach Brown, who signed with the team very late in the off season, was a distant second in the poll asking who should be the highest priority re-signing. We would undoubtedly get a very different result if the poll were held today.

Brown didn’t sign with the Redskins until 4 April last year, after failing to generate the kind of interest he and his agent thought he deserved following his 2016 pro-bowl season with the Buffalo Bills.

Brown became an instant leader on the Redskins defense, and was one of many strong individual performers on the Redskins defensive side of the ball. With his incredible sideline-to-sideline speed and sure tackling, Brown gave Redskin fans something that they hadn’t seen in several years — good play from an inside linebacker.

Brown was the NFL’s leading tackler throughout the season, until injury forced him to miss the final four games of the season. He still finished as the league leader in tackles per game, and was a bright spot in the Redskins’ 7-9 season.

Brown’s weakness, though, comes against the pass, and he was beaten several times in coverage. The Redskins can probably work with his specific strengths and weaknesses by managing the personnel on the field and the defensive scheme, but there’s a question about whether Zach Brown will be back in the burgundy and gold in 2018.

The top linebackers in the league get paid a premium for being skilled against both the run and the pass. Being vulnerable against the pass limits Brown’s dollar-value to a team. There are indications that Zach Brown wants to test the market again in 2018, and the Redskins seem to be inclined to let him do that, though they have expressed a desire to see him back with the Redskins. I’ve read a couple of reports recently in which writers have suggested that Brown is likely to get a similar reception from teams this season, and that he’s likely to end up back in DC, but it only takes one guy to want to sign him to change that.

Zach Brown fits well with the Washington defense, and fans like him. Ultimately, his 2018 team will be decided by which GM is willing to pay Brown what he thinks he is worth.

If no GM is ready to meet his price, I suspect there’s a good chance that he’ll return to DC where he had the best games of his career a year ago.

Poll

Who will start at inside linebacker for the Redskins (most likely next to Mason Foster) on opening day 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Zach Brown
    (631 votes)
  • 1%
    Nigel Bradham
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    Tahir Whitehead
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Avery Williamson
    (0 votes)
  • 8%
    Roquan Smith
    (76 votes)
  • 4%
    Tremaine Edmunds
    (39 votes)
  • 2%
    Rashaan Evans
    (19 votes)
  • 2%
    A different player already on the Redskins team
    (24 votes)
  • 4%
    A different veteran free agent
    (36 votes)
  • 3%
    A different drafted rookie
    (30 votes)
875 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What round will the Redskins draft a wide receiver in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    They won’t draft a receiver
    (41 votes)
  • 3%
    1st
    (27 votes)
  • 24%
    2nd
    (197 votes)
  • 62%
    4th or 5th
    (503 votes)
  • 5%
    6th or 7th
    (42 votes)
810 votes total Vote Now