THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MARCH 28th. GIVEN THOMAS’ INCREDIBLE PERFORMANCE LAST NIGHT, IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA TO RE-POST IT.
It seems like the search for a durable solution at tight end has been years in the making for the Redskins. Both Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis were key contributors - when they were healthy - but unfortunately neither could be counted on for reliable performance for at least the past couple of years. After Reed’s preseason, season-ending, concussion, and Davis’ subsequent early season exit, third-year tight end Jeremy Sprinkle had the opportunity to show off his stuff. It turns out he doesn’t have much stuff.
With the Sprinkle experiment strewn in shards of glass and foaming reagents across the lab room floor, Hale Hentges - an UDFA poached off the Colts’ practice squad - got four late season starts and showed himself to be potential TE3 material with the capacity to move into TE2 territory with some seasoning. At the end of the 2019 season, however, by any reasonable metric, the Redskins TE cupboard was bare.
There was a brief hope among some that the Redskins might sign the top free agent tight end available, Austin Hooper, to a multi-year contract, but that wish was crushed when he chose the Browns in the initial days of free agency.
I held out hopes that perhaps Delanie Walker’s foot had healed, and that he had something left in the tank. But, alas, he remains unsigned.
And then we got word that the Redskins had signed a free agent tight end from the Lions, Logan Thomas. Thomas even scored a touchdown against the Redskins last season. In 2019, Thomas played in all 16 games, started 3, caught 16 passes for 173 yards and that single touchdown. I’ll confess, I had no idea who he was.
Who Is This Guy?
Thomas ended his college career as the top QB in several categories at Virginia Tech. In 4 years there, he put up over 9,000 yards and 50 TDs passing, and collected another 1,248 yards and 24 TDs with his feet.
But before that, he was rated by several scouting services as the top TE prospect in the high school ranks, ahead of guys like Levine Toilolo, Tyler Eifert, and Zach Ertz. So why did he make the change to QB? According to a recent story in the Athletic, Thomas was committed to playing TE in college, and, in fact, removed schools that wanted him to play QB from his selection process. But, during his first practice at Virginia Tech, head coach Frank Beamer coaxed Thomas into throwing the ball around a bit. The rest, as they say, is history. His first year, he sat behind Tyrod Taylor on the depth chart, but by his second year, he was starting for the Hokies, and led them to an 11-3 record.
By the time the 2014 draft rolled around, Thomas was convinced his future in the NFL was as a quarterback, despite accuracy issues and footwork deficiencies that were likely to be exposed at the next level. As seems to happen in every draft, he was one of those quarterbacks who at least a few draftniks thought would benefit mightily from a position change. One of those voices was Hall of Famer and former Cowboys’ personnel administrator, Gil Brandt.
The hardest selling job in the world is to convince a quarterback that you’re moving him to another position. It doesn’t make a difference what you say to him — you can tell him you’ll double his salary. No quarterback wants to move. - Gil Brandt
In the lead up to the draft, Brandt saw Thomas’ size and measurables (6’6”, 256 lbs, 4.68 40YD) as ideal for the NFL, just not at the QB position, particularly given his throwing deficiencies. In Thomas’ Combine results, Brandt saw what immediately pops out when you compare his measurables to others at the tight end position:
His Combine numbers comp most closely to Rob Gronkowski and Austin Hooper, with Jimmy Graham not far behind. At the time, Brandt offered, “If I were still with the Cowboys, I would draft Thomas, but I would work him out and see how he caught the ball and ran routes.”
Brandt wasn’t the only voice clamoring for Thomas to consider a position change, but ultimately, he resisted all those suggestions:
“I just disregard [changing positions] right off the top, really,” Thomas told The Washington Times’ Zac Boyer. “I said, ‘I’d probably just tell you, ‘No, thank you. I’ll just take my chances elsewhere.’”
Off to the NFL
Despite the concerns by some that Thomas’ QB career had peaked at Virginia Tech, he was taken in the 4th round of the 2014 draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Thomas played in two games in 2014, completing a single pass (albeit for 81 yards and a TD), but was released by the Cardinals prior to the 2015 season - an apparent admission by head coach Bruce Arians that this QB project was highly unlikely to pan out.
From there, he was picked up off waivers by the Dolphins, placed onto their practice squad, and eventually cut in the summer of 2016. Later in the 2016 season, he was picked up by the Giants, still with the expectation of playing as a QB, but ultimately released that November.
That cut from the Giants must have prompted some soul searching, because it was at that point that Thomas finally decided to once again explore playing tight end, this time with the Lions.
“It was pretty tough. I don’t know if it’s completely hit me yet,” Thomas told The Buffalo News of the switch. “Tight end is a different language. I still catch myself when I’m looking at film, looking at stuff as if I was a quarterback.”
He was quickly grabbed off the Lions’ practice squad by the Bills in late 2016, and saw intermittent playing time with them in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, accumulating 19 receptions, 144 yards, and a TD.
He spent 2019 in Detroit on a one-year contract. Though his numbers weren’t particularly impressive, an informal poll of Lions’ fans on Pride of Detroit expressed overwhelming interest (85%) in re-signing him this offseason, with some fans going to far as to say he had “supplanted Jesse James as TE2 by the end of the season.”
What Does this Mean for the Redskins?
The Redskins just signed Thomas to a 2-year deal worth over $6.1 million (with $2.2 million guaranteed), which is about triple the vet minimum for a player with his accrued experience, so the team must see something in him. To me, this feels an awful lot like last year’s deal with Ereck Flowers (without quite as much hand-wringing), where the team has at least some confidence that they can extract from the player a level of performance that makes outside observers look back a year later and ask, “What did they see that the rest of us missed?”
I’m incredibly pleased that they offered Thomas a multi-year deal (with a bit of an escape ramp) so that we don’t find ourselves having to make a potentially difficult decision about him next offseason. From my perspective, Thomas has virtually all of the tools to be - at least - a TE2 in the NFL with additional training and opportunity (which he is nearly assured of getting in DC). And, he simultaneously fills the team’s QB3 need without occupying an additional roster slot, providing more evidence of the depth of Ron Rivera’s commitment to player versatility. I still believe the team should strongly consider taking a TE in the draft for development, but Thomas’ acquisition already gives me comfort that we’ll be better at the position in 2020 than we were last year.
What do you think about the Logan Thomas signing?
This poll is closed
Sneaky good. I think he’s a TE2 with TE1 upside.
Solid. We need all the depth we can get at the position.
Meh. I doubt he ever amounts to much.
Yuck. A waste of a couple million dollars.