The Redskins offensive line faces dramatic question marks as we head into the off-season. Trent Williams missed the entirety of the 2019 season in a well-documented holdout, followed by being placed on the NFI list when he reported in Week 10. Both starting guards from the 2019 roster — Ereck Flowers and Brandon Scherff — are heading towards free agency in March unless the team re-signs one or both of them. Right Tackle Morgan Moses has seen a sharp fall-off in play in recent seasons; it may be time to move on from the Redskins’ 2014 third-round pick.
Of course, making a murky situation even more complex is the fact that the Redskins spent the early part of January “cleaning house” by replacing nearly the entire coaching staff, replacing and relocating some key people in the front office, and putting the franchise’s future in the hands of Ron Rivera, who is now clearly in charge. He has no particular attachment to anyone on the roster, meaning that business decisions shouldn’t be too difficult for him (and his staff) to make.
Perhaps the only offensive line starting position that seems secure is at Center, where Chase Roullier, the team’s 2017 6th round pick, has performed well enough to provide stability for the past two seasons.
We will look at the other four offensive line positions one-by-one.
Today, in the second article in the series, we will consider the Left Guard position.
Part One - Ereck Flowers
Most NFC East fans know the Ereck Flowers story, though Giants and Eagles fans seem to be stuck on the notion that he’s an NFL bust — an idea that most Redskins fans have (many reluctantly) moved past.
My gawd Flowers is a strong man! He can see AND feel Penn does not pick up this stunt and essentially blocks both defenders here...with one arm each! pic.twitter.com/VeJfqcZQnC— Mark Tyler(Hogs Haven) (@Tiller56) December 24, 2019
Sure, the ninth overall draft pick in the 2015 draft was a bust at offensive tackle, but as the left guard for the Redskins in 2019, he may have been the best and most consistent lineman on the team.
From all reports, Flowers enjoyed his season in Washington, saying that he was having fun playing football again. Normally, that would bode well for him being re-signed by the team, but, of course, the Redskins fired nearly the entire coaching staff in January, and the new regime may not have Flowers in their plans.
If Rivera and Company have a different plan at left guard, it could possibly still provide a win of sorts for the franchise. Flowers put enough good film out there that another team could well offer him a nice contract that could qualify the Redskins for a 2021 compensatory draft pick.
Beyond the question of Flowers’ fit with the Rivera/Scott Turner scheme and roster, however, is the question of just how much Flowers rehabilitated his reputation with his 2019 season, and what that means for the demand for his services and the paycheck he can command.
It seems as if the pro personnel group (led by Alex Santos) would be pushing to retain Flowers. He is, after all, a ‘win’ for them from last year’s free agency, but only if he can be retained on a reasonable contract.
Most people seem to assume that Flowers will be willing to sign a contract that is $3m to $8m less than Brandon Scherff, but Flowers may not feel the same way. The 25-years-old lineman might think his value is equal to that of Scherff following his 2019 campaign, and with Bill Callahan coaching the offensive line in Cleveland and Jay Gruden trying to establish his offensive scheme in Jacksonville, there might be a real market for Flowers’ services.
Part 2 - Filling the starting spot from the 2019 roster
From among the players who were on the Redskins’ 2019 roster, Martin seems to be the best bet to take over a starting guard position. The 23-year-old played only a limited amount in his rookie season (290 snaps at right guard), but he was expected to be something of a project when he was drafted in the 4th round a year ago.
In August, Mark Tyler did a film study of Martin’s pre-season film, saying:
“[I]t’s a mixed bag so far”, with some good and some bad reps. That’s to be expected however, as many rookies go through a learning curve and some growing pains when they enter the league. Most of these come from getting used to the speed of the game, and understanding what defenses are trying to do within the front seven.
In a film study done in early November by Mark Bullock of the Athletic, the verdict was similar:
He’s a fundamentally sound guard that is somewhat limited in that he’s not as good of an athlete as Scherff and won’t be the dominant force in the screen game that Scherff can be. But he can be a functional player for the Redskins, either as a backup guard or a potential adequate starter in the future. In my opinion, the Redskins should be going all out to re-sign Scherff this offseason, as Martin won’t replace what they get from Scherff. But if they lose either Scherff or Flowers, Martin has flashed the potential to replace one of them and become a solid starting guard.
Pierschbacher played in the high-profile Alabama program, which meant that he initially had a bit more ‘buzz’ during the April draft than did Wes Martin. Mark Tyler was very enthusiastic about the pick in his “instant reaction”:
In my opinion, the Redskins got tremendous value at this selection, as I had Pierschbacher as a late third round-fourth round prospect. He’s a tad bit undersized at just 307 pounds, but he’s a technician who has great footwork and understands angles. He was a four year starter at Alabama who has the ability to play either guard or center. He may need to add some functional strength, but once he does so, he has the potential to be a very good pro. I see him competing in training camp to earn the starting left guard spot, and being the team’s back-up center.
Tyler’s Take: I really like this pick, and I think Pierschbacher is really under-rated at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes in and wins the starting left guard spot outright this summer.
Of course, Flowers — who was championed by Mark Tyler throughout the off-season and regular season — played so well in ‘19 that Pierschbacher couldn’t get on the field on offense. His playing time was limited to 12 special teams snaps across 5 games.
It makes it a little bit hard to assess his progress.
Similar to Mark Tyler, The Athletic’s Mark Bullock had limited opportunities for film study of Pierschbacher, who simply didn’t get on the field with the Redskins offense outside of 88 preseason snaps. Based on his film from Alabama, however, Bullock wrote this in May 2019:
Overall, Pierschbacher brings high football intelligence and versatility to the Redskins offensive line. He played center in his senior year, but also spent time at both left and right guard during his time at Alabama. He’s not too physically imposing or freakishly athletic, which will cause him some issues early in his career until he refines his technique. But Pierschbacher’s role early on will likely be as a back up interior lineman, where he has the flexibility to fill in at all three spots.
In the end, Gruden and Callahan relied on veteran Tony Bergstrom to fill the role in 2019 that many thought would belong to Pierschbacher. Bergstrom played 226 offensive snaps this past season, spread across 13 games.
Originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, and with experience at both Center and Guard positions, Bergstrom has been a veteran backup that Bill Callahan had relied on since joining the team in late 2017.
Frankly, if Bergstrom was the answer to the starting left guard position, Ereck Flowers would have never been signed to the Redskins to begin with.
Like Flowers, Bergstrom is set to become a free agent in March. I figure the Redskins will do themselves a favor by letting him walk. Maybe they’ll get lucky and Jay Gruden or Bill Callahan will convince Jacksonville or Cleveland to pay the 33 year old enough money to qualify for a 7th round compensatory pick.
Part 3 - veteran free agency
Greg van Roten, Panthers, age 30
Van Roten was an undrafted free agent who has played 5 years in the league — two with the Packers and three with the Panthers. He started 27 straight games at left guard for the Panthers in ‘18 and ‘19 before going on IR late in the season with a dislocated toe. He was playing in Carolina for $835,000 per season, and could provide an inexpensive veteran option at guard, especially if the Redskins fail to re-sign Flowers, Scherff or both. This guy would be similar to, say, Tom Compton following Kyle Shanahan to Atlanta. I’d say it’s a reasonable possibility.
Click here for links to Hogs Haven stories about 2020 veteran free agency
Joe Thuney, Patriots, age 27
NFL Trade Rumors ranks Thuney as the 30th overall veteran free agent available this off-season, and the 2nd-ranked offensive guard behind our own Brandon Scherff. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah is even more bullish on Thuney, ranking his as the best guard available, and the 13th ranked overall veteran free agent of 2020.
In 2019, PFF ranked Thuney as the #6 guard, with an overall offensive grade of 77.4. By contrast, they ranked Brandon Scherff #9 (75.0).
Thuney was drafted by the Patriots in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft and is coming off of his rookie contract.
New England has projected cap space of around $45.5m, according to OverTheCap, but, of course, they don’t have their starting quarterback under contract. The cap situation for the Patriots could get quite interesting this off-season. Still, they have limited OL depth, and I would expect that re-signing Thuney would be a priority.
It’s always hard to tell what Belichick will do, though. With Thuney being so highly rated, and guard salaries escalating, he might well let Thuney go, take the 2021 comp pick in return, and magically trade for a low-cost replacement from the Bengals or Cardinals or wherever.
It’s hard to see the Redskins signing Thuney to be honest. He’s likely to command roughly the same contract as Brandon Scherff. If they want to spend that kind of money, they should probably use it on the guy they drafted 5th overall in 2015.
Graham Glasgow, Lions, age 28
NFL Trade Rumors ranks Glasgow as the 47th overall veteran free agent available this off-season, and the 3rd-ranked offensive guard.
Like Thuney, Glasgow was picked in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft.
Glasgow has played all three interior positions for the Lions, starting at both guard and center over the past three seasons.
PFF gave Glasgow a lot of love in 2019, ranking him 11th overall with a grade of 74.1.
Tim Twentyman, a writer for DetroitLions.com, wrote a free agent review for all 19 of Detroits upcoming UFAs last month. Here’s what he had to say about Glasgow:
2019 stats: No sacks allowed, five quarterback hits, 20 quarterback hurries
Twentyman: A former third-round pick by the Lions in 2016, Glasgow has the versatility to play both guard spots and center. He played in at least 93 percent of Detroit’s offensive snaps his first three seasons in the league. He played in 86 percent of the snaps this year, yielding some snaps to Wiggins. Glasgow finished as the 13th best guard in football by Pro Football Focus. There will be a market for his services in free agency.
There is, of course, a question about whether Glasgow will actually make it to the open market in March. For some insight on that question, I went to SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit, who recently ranked 17 upcoming free agents, putting Glasgow in the top position:
All signs point to Glasgow testing free agency, since the Lions didn’t seem too interested in extending him this past summer. However, Glasgow provides versatility, above-average play, and reliability that this team seems to covet so much. Money must be the sticking issue, because the Lions’ interior offensive line has actually been a strength this season, and it’d be a shame to disrupt that in 2020.
A separate article from Pride of Detroit provides more insight to the situation:
Graham Glasgow hasn’t outright said it yet, but it sure sounds like he’s ready to look elsewhere for employment in 2020. The Detroit Lions starting right guard played the final game on his rookie contract, as he endured the team’s 12th loss of the season and their ninth straight.
With free agency potentially on the horizon, Graham appears to want one major thing: to feel appreciated.
“It’s been a long year and I would like to feel like I’m wanted, sort of,” Glasgow said. “It’s just been a long year.”
There are plenty of reasons to believe Glasgow doesn’t feel wanted in Detroit. The team didn’t give him an extension this offseason despite playing all at an above average level and missing just a single snap over the prior two seasons. Despite bringing solid talent and position versatility, the Lions decided to repeatedly rotate him out of the lineup for several series a game during the 2019 season in favor of veteran Kenny Wiggins.
“We’ll see how everything works out, and I guess we’ll see in March what happens.”
I’m no expert on offensive line play or how to rate offensive line salaries, but I’m guessing that Glasgow will fall in the gap between Thuney & Scherff at the top of the veteran free agent guard class of 2020 and Ereck Flowers, who will probably be in the middle of the group.
Depending on how the new Ron Rivera regime wants to structure the offensive line, Glasgow, with his great positional flexibility, could prove to be an extremely valuable free agent acquisition this off-season, especially if he is paired with a low-cost option like young Wes Martin or experienced ex-Panther Van Roten on the opposite side. Glasgow is capable of starting or backing up all three interior line positions, and could provide a big upgrade from Tony Bergstrom and competition for Ross Pierschbacher.
Part 4 - The 2020 draft
If the Redskins look to the draft for the starting left guard, they will, by definition, be looking only at the top prospects available — players who will need to be better than options like Martin and Pierschbacher.
Click here to read Hogs Haven’s 2020 Washington Redskins Draft Profiles
With the number of needs that the Redskins likely have to draft for at TE, OT, LB, CB, S, and with two 2019 draft picks on the roster as interior linemen, it’s unlikely that the Redskins will be in a position to draft a Week One starter in April. However, with lots of trade opportunities possible, anything can happen, so here’s a look at some of the NFL-ready interior linemen that the Redskins could consider drafting to replace Ereck Flowers this off-season.
Tristan Wirfs - Iowa
From the Draft Network:
Wirfs became the first Iowa freshman to start at offensive tackle since Kirk Ferentz took over the program in 1999. Coming in at No. 1 in Bruce Feldman’s annual freak list, Wirfs rewrote the weight room records for the Hawkeyes and is one of the strongest overall prospects in the class. Oh, by the way he’s an excellent football player and prospect. While he has some technical items to address, Wirfs has the skill set of an impact starter, most likely at right tackle where he started at Iowa over the last 3.5 years. With that said, his best position in the NFL could come at guard but there is little reason to think he won’t be just as dominant outside at tackle. Wirfs is a powerful man with impressive mobility that should make him an asset in the run game and out in space. Wirfs has the upside to become one of the better offensive linemen in the game by Year Three.
Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
One option that the Redskins might pursue could be to draft a player like Ruiz to take over as the starting Center, allowing Chase Roullier to slide left or right to fill a guard position. Is Ruiz good enough? Well, the profile from NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah compares him to Travis Frederick:
Ruiz is an extremely consistent, physical and aware center. In pass protection, he has a tight punch and immediate anchor. His lower body is outrageously strong. He is very aware vs. twists/stunts. He lacks elite foot quickness, but he doesn’t have any issues sliding and redirecting to stay square vs. defenders. In the run game, he latches and runs his feet to create movement. He is outstanding on combo blocks, staying under control, locating and walling off linebackers. His lack of foot quickness shows up on outside pulls. Overall, Ruiz reminds me of Travis Frederick coming out of Wisconsin.
The obvious advantage that Roullier has as an experienced 3-year veteran is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the Redskins have a whole new coaching staff and offensive scheme. If the offensive line is being re-built, shifting Roullier to guard in the process to make way for the next Travis Frederick might prove to be a prudent long-term decision.
Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
Another center with positional flexibility to play all three interior spots, the 6’3”, 321 pound Biadasz is considered to be one of the top interior linemen in this year’s draft. Fansided’s Jason Truitt wrote a detailed scouting report on him about a month ago.
Tyler Biadasz has been established as one of the best interior offensive lineman eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft. The center took control of Wisconsin’s offensive line in 2019 and was the core to opening the pathway for running back, Jonathan Taylor. Taylor finished the season with over 2,000 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns and is a top running back prospect for the 2020 NFL Draft in late April.
Wisconsin tended to rely on their powerful and aggressive rushing attack in 2019, driving it up the gut most of the time. This gave Biadasz more than enough opportunities to showcase his talents on a team known for sending off many of their big boys to the NFL.
Highly mobile for his size. Has the speed and footwork needed to be utilized for pulling plays such as counters and screens. Can hustle his way to those second-level blocks against linebackers. He did this plenty during his time at Wisconsin. Good power blocker with a solid frame who displays a powerful ‘punch’ upon impact.
Solomon Kindley, Georgia
A 3-star recruit out of high school and a redshirt freshman, Kindley has been a starter the past three seasons, 32 games overall. The past two seasons he was Georgia’s left guard.
With his relatively unheralded status coming out of high school, the Junior from Georgia has, of course, been playing next to the high-profile tackle Andrew Thomas, and shares in the success of the Bulldog offensive line.
While Kindley wouldn’t be a sexy pick, he is a dark horse candidate to be the best player available when the Redskins are on the clock with their third round pick, #66 overall.
This 6’4”, 335 lb lineman is a big unit who could prove to be a good value pick for the Redskins, providing stability on the interior of the line for years to come.
Which of the following do you think describes the guy who will line up at Left Guard for the Redskins for the opening game of the 2020 season?
This poll is closed
A different player from the Redskins 2020 roster
A veteran free agent
A 2020 draft pick
If the Redskins signed one of the veteran free agents highlighted in this article, which one would you prefer it to be, taking into account, skills, age, expected cap hit, etc?
This poll is closed
Greg Van Roten, 30, Panthers
Joe Thuney, 27, Patriots
Graham Glasgow, 28, Lions
If the Redskins drafted a college player highlighted in this article, which one would you prefer it to be?
This poll is closed
Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
Solomon Kindley, Georgia
No way they should try to draft a starting left guard