With Alex Smith injured and Trent Williams holding out, the Redskins front office decided to go into the 2019 season with a young group of untested receivers without a strong draft pedigree. With Dwayne Haskins expected to spend at least part of the ‘19 season learning how to be an NFL quarterback, the roster resources feel a little... out of balance... this season.
But when you look ahead to 2020, this year’s young offensive skill players, with a year of seasoning, start to change the perspective on what the Redskins will look like.
I thought it might be interesting to glance ahead and ask what this roster might look like a year from now.
Let’s look at the defense first
Frankly, discounting the unpredictable impact of injuries, the Redskins defense in 2020 should be largely unaffected by losses in free agency. The three most significant players who are in a contract year in 2019 are Cassanova McKinzy, Caleb Brantley and Deshazor Everett. The team probably already has players on the practice squad who could step in for Brantley and Everett, and with Brailford, who is currently on IR, the team has a drafted player who could probably fill McKinzy’s roster spot if he isn’t re-signed.
The team doesn’t have a single projected 2019 defensive starter who is in a contract year and scheduled to hit free agency in 2020. In fact, the only player (aside from the three mentioned above) who seems at all questionable for next season is Josh Norman, who will be going into the final year of his contract with Washington with a significant cap hit. The Redskins could decide to cut him in an effort to create cap space.
Offensive skill players
If you fast forward one year, things may look a lot rosier than they do now.
QB - Dwayne Haskins will be a second-year player who should have full command of the offense. The Redskins will need to secure a backup by either re-signing one or both of their veterans, drafting a player or signing a free agent, but the starting quarterback position should be sorted and drama-free for the first time since... probably 2012.
RB - Derrius Guice will have a year of NFL experience under his belt; Bryce Love should be fully healthy, and Adrian Peterson will still be under contract if the Redskins want him back.
WR - The six receivers that made the roster this week could all be back. Robert Davis is in his contract year in 2019 and would need to be re-signed, but the other five would form a strong core group. Richardson, the veteran, will be in his 3rd year as a Redskin. Quinn will be a third year player, and McLaurin, Harmon and Sims will all be well along in their development, with plenty of experience gained in 2019.
Best of all, the Redskins will have a young group of receivers who can “grow up” together with the QB of the future, Dwayne Haskins.
TE - The only potential ‘trouble’ area is tight end. Vernon Davis is likely to retire at the end of this season, leaving Jeremy Sprinkle with an expensive and injury-riddled Jordan Reed, who could finally become a salary cap casualty. The team may need to draft a tight end and rely on JP Holtz (or similar type player) to round out the unit.
The bad news is that the 2019 offensive line looks weak, and a number of players who are on the 53 now are not under contract for 2020.
The good news is that — with the stability on the defensive side of the ball and the likelihood that QB, RB, and starting WR positions will be fairly settled — the Redskins will be able to devote draft and free agency resources to quickly re-building the decimated offensive line, which, in 2020, will probably need a starting Left Tackle and two backup interior linemen.
The Redskins 2020 salary cap currently looks a bit tight, but there may be some relief on the horizon:
- The Alex Smith insurance policy may possibly kick in and provide $12m in cap space
- If a new CBA is in place, Alex Smith could be released as a post-June 1st roster cut, spreading his cap hit over two seasons (‘20 & ‘21)
- The Redskins could create space by making roster cuts; the two most likely candidates are Josh Norman and Jordan Reed, as discussed above, though — if the young RBs are performing well enough — Adrian Peterson could be a cap casualty as well.
- While it’s not something I hope for, the real possibility that Trent Williams could be traded soon could have the double benefit of providing the Redskins with more draft capital, and providing more than $20m in cap space over two years (‘19 & ‘20)
The point here is that the Redskins are unlikely to need to sign more than one or two top-tier free agents, so the 2020 cap will probably offer sufficient maneuvering space to take care of team roster needs.
For visually-oriented readers
I have put together a chart of what the 2020 opening day roster could look like, relying only on the players currently under contract, whether they are on the regular roster, IR or other reserve list, or practice squad.
I have color-coded a few roster spots:
BLUE - designates positions that I project need to be filled with a draft pick or free agency. I have identified 5 roster spots in this category. One of them is a starter (left tackle), while the other three are backup positions. Three of the five blue roster spots are on the offensive line and only one is on defense.
PINK - I have used pink to highlight potential salary cap cuts — Norman, Reed and AD.
GREY - I have used grey to highlight 5 players who are scheduled to be free agents in 2020 that I project to be re-signed. Two are offensive starters (Scherff and Robert Davis) while the other three are backups. Safety Everett can easily be replaced by current practice squad player Jeremy Reaves, and Colt McCoy is almost just a placeholder for the third QB position. Assuming Dwayne Haskins is firmly entrenched as the starter next season, the identity of the third string QB is of little importance.
This chart shows (if I counted correctly) 25 offensive players and 23 defensive players, so there are two defensive positions that I have not assigned.
The decision by the front office to cut some dead-weight veterans like Doctson and Perine while retaining young players with potential may not pay off with a lot of wins in 2019. It should, though, see the Redskins entering the 2020 off-season with a youthful roster, but one with plenty of game experience.
Of course, there’s nothing to indicate that every young player listed on this depth chart will perform well or be worthy of the roster position I have projected in 2020. Certainly some will fail to live up to expectations, but if two or three of them fail, it will simply open up opportunity for the next man to show up ball out.
My unmistakable takeaway, however, is that the Redskins should enter next off-season with a stable roster that will primarily need offensive line help. It should be a roster that is poised for stability and success for years to come, as long as the front office (Kyle Smith) can continue to have success in the draft.