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Looking ahead to the Redskins 2021 free agency

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NFL: New England Patriots at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I am more and more convinced that the 2021 Redskins roster will not look much at all like the 2020 Roster. The latest piece of evidence that caught my eye is that at least 20 players from the current roster — nearly all of whom have a good chance of making the 53-man roster this season — will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2020 season. There will also be a number of RFAs (restricted free agents) and ERFAs (exclusive rights free agents), meaning that perhaps a third of the Redskins 2021 roster will be wearing the burgundy and gold for the first time, and the 30 or so core players who remain will be dominated by Redskins draft picks from 2017-2020.


Related: What does the Redskins updated depth chart look like today?


I thought it might be interesting to look at twenty players who are currently on the Redskins roster that should be free agents when the season ends. I have broken them up into six groups for discussion.

Group 1 - JAGS

This group includes players who seem to be NFL quality guys, but at the “commodity” level where they happen to be on the Redskins roster, but they are largely interchangeable with a dozen other player in the NFL, all of whom would probably perform at roughly the same level. If these players return to the Redskins in 2021, that’s great; if not, there should be another player at about the same price who should plug neatly into the available roster spot.

The guys on this list, almost by definition, may not make the 2020 roster. Each of them is on a one-year contract or the final year of a multi-year contract. Each of these contracts is low-cost with few if any guarantees in place.

  • Nate Orchard DE
  • Cody Latimer WR
  • Richard Rodgers TE
  • Jared Norris LB
  • Caleb Brantley DE
  • Jeremy Sprinkle TE

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Group Two - 2020 is a “prove it” year

The players in this category have shown potential, and may have had some NFL success, but each one has suffered from injury or poor play (or both), and needs to have a good 2020 season to make sure his arrow is pointing up.

A good season from guys on this list could provide them with the opportunity to extend or enhance their NFL careers, while the opposite could see them fall to the JAG list or lower.

I want to add comments about two players on this list. First is Aaron Colvin. We actually don’t know the details of his contract; he may not be a free agent at the end of 2020. I am just guessing that he has agreed to a one-year deal with Washington. The second is Kevin Pierre-Louis, whom some might think belongs on the JAG list. I think a few things argue against that — the most significant being the $3m one-year contract (with $1.5m guaranteed) that he got from the ‘Skins. JAG players get mostly minimum salary contracts with little or no guarantees. KP-L is definitely a cut above a JAG, though he could fall to that level if he doesn’t perform well lin 2020.

  • Aaron Colvin (?) CB
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis LB
  • Ronald Darby CB
  • Reuben Foster LB
  • Josh Harvey-Clemons

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Group Three - Long in the tooth

I only have two players in this group.

The first is Thomas Davis, who will be 38 when free agency rolls around next year. While Davis can certainly still perform on the field, he was signed by the Redskins to help Coach Rivera instill his desired culture and implement the defensive system. I’d be shocked if anyone, including Thomas Davis himself, expects him to play in the NFL again in 2021.


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Adrian Peterson is a very different story. Peterson has talked about continuing to play for a number of years, and, given his incredible physical conditioning and his 2,000+ yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons, it’s hard to argue with him when he says he can continue to play.

I have every confidence that Peterson will be in uniform for an NFL team in 2021, and, personally, I hope he is productive enough this year that he is back with the Redskins next year. This is not a universal hope or expectation, however. There are fans who think that the current running back room is so packed with potential talent that there is no room for Peterson even now. His return in 2021 might signal to those fans a failure by the organization to get the expected return from their young running backs, Guice, Love and Gibson.


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Group Four - the Special Teams specialists

Dustin Hopkins will be 31 when the 2021 free agency opens up. He has been a consistent and reliable kicker for the Redskins, and one more birthday shouldn’t change that.

The long snapper, Nick Sundberg, will be 34 when his contract is up for renewal. He is the longest-tenured Redskin on the squad. Sundberg has worked hard to make himself as valuable off the field as on it, being the 2019 Redskins nominee for NFL Man of the Year. He is well-liked and a hard worker. Will it be enough for the Redskins to extend him yet again? I suspect that if there’s no drop off in his play this season, then he’ll be back in 2021 along with Hopkins.

From the 2019 off-season: Sundberg and East - a tale of two long snappers

Group Five - We need these guys to earn a spot

The players in this group need to have a good year in 2020 — not just for themselves — but for the Redskins franchise. Each of them is probably critical to whatever on-field success the team will have in 2020, and it would be best if they could continue to fill their respective roster spots in 2021 and beyond.

  • Sean Davis FS
  • Fabian Moreau CB
  • Ryan Anderson DE/LB

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Group Six - Critical Redskins

I think the inclusion of Brandon Scherff and Chase Roullier in this group is a no-brainer. If the Redskins need to replace these two guys in 2021, it would represent roster management failure, and would leave two huge holes that need to be filled in the critical offensive line unit.


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The third inclusion, Ryan Kerrigan, is a completely different situation. Ryan Kerrigan will almost certainly be part of a rotation at DE this year. He will be 33 years old when free agency rolls around next year.

Kerrigan represents the tension between the idea that the NFL is “just a business” and the “family” feeling that Ron Rivera says is so important to NFL success. Kerrigan was the first round draft pick of the Redskins in 2011. He has been one of the most consistent players — not just on the Redskins, but in the entire NFL throughout his career. If any single player on the current roster could be said to be the “most Redskins player”, it would probably be Kerrigan. He is a hard worker, a good leader, a charismatic guy, and a good player. In short, he’s everything the organization could have asked for when they drafted him.


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But there may not be a good “fit” between Kerrigan and the Redskins in 2021. Kerrigan doesn’t look ready to retire, but the reality might be that he needs to accept lower pay and fewer snaps to remain in Washington given that the Redskins drafted first-round talents Montez Sweat and Chase Young in the past two drafts.

Many fans have visualized Kerrigan as a career-long Redskin, but he may very well seek out a team more in need of his talents, and more willing to pay for them, in 2021.

I’m a huge fan of Ryan Kerrigan, and if he can retire a Redskin, I’d love to see that happen. It’ll be interesting to see how the “family” versus “business” tug-o-war plays out over the coming year with regard to Kerrigan.