The Redskins offensive line faces dramatic question marks as we move through 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 or utilizes the franchise tag. 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, we will look at the Right Tackle position.
Part One - Morgan Moses
Any Redskins fan who has watched the team over the past few seasons will doubtless have noticed Morgan Moses — if for no other reason than that the officials keep throwing yellow flags and calling his number.
- In 2019 Moses had 11 total flags thrown against him; only 13 NFL players had more in the regular season. He and Brandon Scherff, together, accounted for nearly 20% of all the Redskins penalties last season.
- The incredible thing is that 2019 marked an improvement from 2018, when Moses’ 16 flags were the highest in the league, and his 108 penalty yards were the 6th highest in the NFL, but the highest of any non-DB.
Possibly as concerning as Moses’ tendency to get called for penalties is his seeming willingness to blame the referees for targeting him and penalizing him unfairly. Instead of asking what he needs to do different or better, Morgan has vented his frustration about how his ‘reputation’ leads to flags being thrown on him unfairly.
Beyond the number of penalty flags that Moses has drawn over the past two seasons, his play has fallen off fairly steadily since 2015, though opinions about the cause (dissatisfaction with the Redskins, injury, whatever), and the solutions (cut him, coach him up, get him healthy, just wait and he’ll come good) are varied.
Here are the offensive snap counts for Moses in recent seasons:
- 2019: 858
- 2018: 965
- 2017: 958
- 2016: 1,017
- 2015: 1,104
There’s been a general downtrend over the past five seasons, partly due to the Redskins’ offense being less productive, but also because of a series of nagging injuries to the right tackle, especially ankle injuries, that have cost him snaps, but not games.
His grades from PFF have followed a similar pattern, indicating that his quality of play has fallen off along with his snap counts:
- 2019: 65.2
- 2018: 64.8
- 2017: 67.6
- 2016: 76.8
- 2015: 78.1
Unlike many other Redskins, Moses has stayed on the field. starting every game for the Redskins since 2015.
But the declining play of the 28 year old, 7-year veteran from UVA is troubling. According to OverTheCap, Moses is the 8th highest paid right tackle in the league, but his $8m APY contract lags far behind the $18m paid to Lane Johnson, or the $16.5m paid to Trent Brown.
His cap hits for the three years remaining on his Redskins contract are:
- 2020 - $8.65m
- 2021 - $9.65m
- 2022 - $7.75m
In today’s NFL, with its rapidly rising salary cap, these numbers look to be relative bargains for even an average veteran right tackle, but if Moses continues to kill drives with penalties and hurt the offense by being beaten too often by the opposing players, is there a point where the coaching staff has to say that he’s simply not good enough, no matter what his contract price?
If Ron Rivera and his staff had already reached that point with Moses, he would probably have been released ahead of the Combine, along with Josh Norman, Paul Richardson and Jordan Reed. It seems that they are willing to bring him to camp as part of the Redskins roster in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that the team won’t seek to bring in competition for the starting right tackle position. Moses is not too expensive to play as a backup on this roster, and if he were to be cut outright, the Redskins would save $4.85m in salary cap in 2020, and more than $20m over the three years remaining on his contract.
If the opportunity exists to upgrade from Moses, I don’t think that Ron Rivera will hesitate to take it.
Part 2 - Competition for the starting spot from the 2019 roster
In the third round of the 2018 draft, the Redskins selected Geron Christian. At the time, it was said that he would be something of a project, but that he would eventually be either the ‘swing tackle’ (expected to back up both LT and RT positions on game day) or potentially the replacement for Trent Williams when the time came.
In 2019, Christian got some time on the field due to injuries that affected his teammates on the offensive line, but failed to impress most observers. In 146 offensive snaps, Christian got a rather middling season-long grade of 63.0 from PFF, with individual game grades that ranged from 49.4 on 3 snaps against the Giants in Week 3 to 73.4 for 22 snaps versus the Jets in Week 11. For the most part, however, PFF graded the lineman between 59 and 69 (7 of his 11 game appearances) in 2019.
Without a huge leap from his second to third season, it doesn’t appear that Geron Christian will be ready to challenge for the starting right tackle position in 2020.
Part 3 - veteran free agency
Jack Conklin - Titans - age 26
I included Conklin as a free agent option at Left Tackle in an earlier article, but Conklin has spent his entire 4-year NFL career as the right tackle for the Tennessee Titans, who declined his 5th year option, leading him to be projected as a free agent in March.
Conklin was graded as the 15th OT in 2019 by PFF, two spots ahead of Tyron Smith.
Conklin tore his ACL in the playoffs following the 2017 season, and missed the first three games of the 2018 season due to the injury. In week 9 of that season, he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss the Week 11 game. A knee injury in Week 14 ended his rocky season as he was put on IR.
At the end of that 2018 season, the Titans decided not to exercise his 5th year option. He went on to play all 16 games in 2019, and one wonders if the Titans will now compete with the rest of the league for Conklin’s services. There have certainly been some recent rumblings to the effect that the Titans will try to re-sign him ahead of the start of free agency in mid-March.
NFL.com has him ranked 21st overall among their top-101 free agents of 2020:
It’s no surprise that the season’s most unstoppable ground attack ran behind Conklin, one of the league’s most accomplished and physical body movers. Back to full health after battling knee injuries throughout 2018, Conklin paved the way for the NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry as well as Comeback Player of the Year Ryan Tannehill. The Titans have some excruciating decisions to make.
Signing Conklin would likely mean committing to a top-of-the-league contract in terms of dollars and/or guaranteed money at the position, which likely means the $16-20m APY range. Cutting Moses would pay for about half of that over the next three seasons, so it might not be as horribly expensive as it sounds, and would be a huge step in solidifying the Redskins offensive line for the next half decade. It has even been suggested that the Redskins could sign Conklin and move Moses to left tackle — the position he played pretty well at The University.
Daryl Williams, Panthers, age 27
A much less expensive option, Daryl Williams, was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 4th round of the 2015 draft, and has spent his entire career there. The 6’6”, 330 pound offensive lineman from Oklahoma missed nearly the entire 2018 season with a dislocated kneecap and torn MCL, but was signed to a one-year extension for the ‘19 season. He ended up playing in all 16 games, and showed great positional flexibility in his 12 starts, four at left tackle, three at right guard, and five at left guard. At the Combine last week, Ron Rivera spoke about how much he valued positional flexibility.
Returning from injury and playing three different positions, Daryl Williams’ PFF grades were the worst of his career in 2019. which could reflect difficulty recovering from injury, the need to constantly switch positions, or a degradation of his skills.
At 27 years of age now, and two years removed from his knee injury, I could see Ron Rivera and Scott Turner bringing Williams in and betting on his ability to recover his 2017 form, a year in which he started 16 games at right tackle and earned a 77.2 grade from PFF, ranking him above both Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, who were his teammates at the time.
Williams is roughly the same size as Morgan Moses, and has a history of playing right tackle at a high level. If he can recover his pre-injury form, he could offer both an upgrade in skills and depth through positional flexibility that would enhance the Redskins entire offensive line.
Part 4 - The 2020 draft
Jedrick Wills - Alabama
A two-year starter for Alabama, Wills enters the NFL with 28 career starts and developed into a polished blocker over [his] career. Wills is a refined pass blocker with exceptional technique, mobility, power and body control that makes him a dominant performer in pass protection. As a run blocker, Wills has tremendous functional strength and a maulers’ mentality to create vertical push and work angles in the run game. While he has developed wonderfully at right tackle, there is no reason to believe he could not transition to the left side if needed. Wills is a blue chip talent and a plug and play starter in the NFL. He has the upside to become one of the top offensive tackles in the league by Year Three.
Jedrick Wills combine workout from NFL . comhttps://t.co/5Singyn1UI— Bill-in-Bangkok (@billhorgan2005) March 1, 2020
Tristan Wirfs - Iowa
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.
Tristan Wirfs Combine workout from NFL . comhttps://t.co/V7cHvq5oVT— Bill-in-Bangkok (@billhorgan2005) March 1, 2020
Should Morgan Moses be the starting right tackle for the Redskins in 2020?
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Who will be the Week 1 starter for the Redskins at right tackle this season?
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Brandon Scherff or Ereck Flowers
A veteran free agent signed after 18 March
A drafted player