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What does the future hold for Washington Football Team’s 2021 free agents?

NFL: Washington Football Team at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Washington has 19 players whose contracts will come to an end on 17 March 2021.

Let’s take a look at what the future holds for these 19 players:

ERFA Kyle Allen

It will cost $850,000 dollars to bring Kyle Allen back for one year on an ERFA tender, and Washington will still control his rights for at least one more year, and potentially longer.

This is probably the easiest decision on the list. The team should tender and sign Allen prior to 17 March.

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Four RFAs

All four impending restricted free agent players were UDFAs coming out of college and all four of them saw playing time in the 2020 regular season and playoffs.

An original round tender costs $2.2m for a one-year, non-guaranteed contract.

Cam Sims
I think Cam Sims is the ideal candidate for this tender. He showed flashes of good play this year and had a few very good games (Giants, Steelers, Buccaneers). Still, he had some notable drops and is still more potential than production.

NFL: JAN 09 NFC Wild Card - Buccaneers at Washington Football Team

He finished the season with 32 catches and 477 yards. With Washington hopefully upgrading the receiving group with one or two key acquisitions and the expected return of Kelvin Harmon from injury this in 2021, Sims is likely to be 4th or 5th on the depth chart, but likely to get some playing time weekly on offense since he is a special teams contributor.

Robert Foster
Foster is clearly behind Sims as a receiver, so if Sims is 4th or 5th on the depth chart, Foster is a borderline backup/practice squad player. He spent his first two seasons with the Bills, and only joined the WFT as a depth signing in October. He didn’t look great in games. The team should NOT tender him at a cost of $2m+. He is a replacement quality player. If he is retained, it should be on a minimum-dollar deal.

Danny Johnson
Johnson is a 3rd string CB, but he contributes on special teams and was an above-average kick returner this season. I think this is a marginal call, but his returner skills tip the balance for me. I think the team will tender him, but the possibility is there to let him “test” the market and try to resign him on a cheaper deal.

Taylor Heinicke
$2.2m non-guaranteed is cheap for a backup quarterback. It’s even cheaper for a starting quarterback. Some people were so excited by Heinicke’s 69 minutes of play for Washington that they want to offer him a long-term contract.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Others are less excited, pointing out that the young man was out of the NFL for nearly two full seasons. Depending on how you perceive Heinicke, the RFA tender could seem far too expensive (vet minimum would be around $990,000), far too cheap, or just right. I’m leaning towards the “just right” camp. Bring him in on the RFA tender and let him compete in camp. The team should have Heinicke and Allen as two of the team’s three quarterbacks next season at a cost of around $3m for the pair of them.

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Does the contract toll for Reuben Foster?

My understanding of the CBA rules says that Foster, who spent the entire 2020 season on PUP/IR in the final year of his contract, should still be under contract to Washington in 2021 because his contract would “toll”.

Article 20, Section 2 on that page covers some rules surrounding the Physically Unable to Perform list, specifically the “tolling” of a contract.

Here’s what the rule says...

Section 2. Physically Unable to Perform: Any player placed on a Physically Unable to Perform list (“PUP”) will be paid his full Paragraph 5 Salary while on such list. His contract will not be tolled for the period he is on PUP, except in the last year of his contract, when the player’s contract will be tolled if (i) he is still physically unable to perform his football services as of the sixth regular season game; and (ii) he is not reinstated to the Club’s Active/Inactive List during that regular season or postseason.

In my opinion, this means that Reuben Foster will still be under contract to the Washington Football Team at a price of $1.697m for 2021. We’ll find out if I’m right over the coming 8 weeks or so.

The two edge-rushing Ryans: Kerrigan and Anderson

The writing seems to be on the wall regarding Ryan Kerrigan. He wants to be a starter; with the current defensive roster in Washington, that can’t happen here. There are other teams where RyKer can probably make more money, and, perhaps more importantly, have a bigger on-field impact. He will leave in free agency, but come back in a few years to see his name and number added to the Washington Ring of Fame.

NFL: Washington Redskins-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Anderson got 146 defensive snaps in 9 games to start the season. He is nothing more than a backup and special teamer, despite his draft pedigree (second round pick in 2017). The current coaching staff have no deep ties to the player or picking him in the draft. I see him leaving in free agency.

Special Teams Specialists - Dustin Hopkins & Nick Sundberg

Long Snapper Nick Sundberg is Washington’s longest-tenured player, having been with the team since 2010. He makes just over a million dollars per year and is very reliable. There’s no great salary cap advantage to replacing him, and he seems to still be capable of performing at a high level. If Sundberg wants to continue, I expect the team to extend him for two or three years at roughly the same money he earned in 2020.

The 30-year-old Hopkins had the worst year of his career in 2020. His contract is ranked 17th in the league by APY, meaning that the salary cap implications are negligible unless the team replaces him with a young kicker on a very cheap contract. Rivera surprised me by sticking with Hopkins as he struggled early in the season, and the kicker was good down the stretch, hitting 14/15 field goals in the final seven games. His strong leg on kickoffs remains his biggest strength while his 50% accuracy beyond 49 yards is his greatest limitation. I think it’s a coin-flip whether Rivera brings him back in 2021, but I’m leaning towards the idea that he will return based on the final 7 games.

Linebackers and Defensive Backs

Ronald Darby signed in Washington on a one-year “prove it” deal after three seasons with significant injuries and lower-than-expected production in Philadelphia. He had a very good year in Washington in 2020 and seems to have earned another contract. I expect Rivera to make it a priority to re-sign Ronald Darby.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Fabian Moreau had 181 defensive snaps in the 2020 season, and had nine games with three snaps or less. I can’t imagine Washington offering him anything more than a vet minimum deal at this point, so I expect the 2017 third round pick to leave in free agency.

Kevin Pierre-Louis was a 4th round pick of the Seahawks in 2014, but played there for only three seasons before being traded to the Kansas City. He spent a year each with the Chiefs, Jets and Bears before coming to DC in 2020. KPL played well, looking like the best linebacker on the defense at times. Washington will probably put a high priority on upgrading the linebacker position this off-season, but Pierre-Louis seems like a strong candidate to return, much like Jon Bostic did after being signed as a journeyman linebacker prior to the 2019 season. I fully expect the Football Team to offer KPL a contract, and, after having played for 5 teams in 5 seasons, I expect KPL to accept.

Los Angeles Rams v Washington Football Team Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Jared Norris was a low-level special teams signing this off-season, coming from Carolina. He played 211 snaps in 2020; all but 7 of those snaps were special teams. Norris is a replacement-quality ST player who will either sign a league minimum contract or be replaced by someone else who will.

Mychal Kendricks was a late-season signing to help cover for some linebacker injuries. He actually played 27 snaps in the wildcard game against Tampa Bay, but he has legal issues that stem from insider trading (to which he plead guilty). He is expected to serve jail time, and his sentencing is scheduled to take place this month. If we ever see him again, it should be in 30-37 months.

RB Lamar Miller

Miller was a late season signing due to Antonio Gibson’s injury. Despite the lack of depth that Washington had at running back, Miller was never activated for a game. Don’t expect him back.

TE Jeremy Sprinkle

“Sprink” shocked me by making the roster in 2020 ahead of Richard Rodgers and Hale Hentges. He could shock me again by getting a contract extension from Washington if it is anything more than a minimum-salary deal. Sprinkle is a 3rd-string backup and special teams player, so there’s a role for him, but he’s replacement-quality.

RT David Sharpe

Washington actually traded for Sharpe prior to training camp. They sent a 6th round pick to the Vegas Raiders in return for Sharpe and a 7th round pick. Parenthetically, the Raiders forfeited the pick they received from Washington as punishment for failure to follow COVID protocols in the 2020 season. Sharpe was on the field for 184 offensive snaps, mostly in Weeks 10, 11, and 12 due to injuries on the offensive line and did not look good. Sharpe is a replacement-quality player who played the 2020 season on the RFA tender price of $2.1m. If he returns to the WFT at all, it should only be on a league minimum salary.

RG Brandon Scherff

Opinions vary widely on what to do about Scherff. Among those who publish articles on Hogs Haven, Mark Tyler has strongly agitated in favor of re-signing the team’s 2015 5th overall pick, who has already played out his rookie contract, his 5th year option and a year on the franchise tag. Scherff earned $15m this year playing on the tag, but the salary cap is set to go down next season, and most teams in the league will be faced with more limited salary cap space than Washington, whom OTC estimates to have the fifth-most available cap space in the NFL. KS4GM, on the other hand, has said repeatedly that paying $15m for a guard is not good value, and so Washington should let Scherff walk in free agency.

Washington Redskins v Chicago Bears Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

I’m a bit ambivalent, seeing both arguments, but I think that having Scherff locked in for another few years at RG between Chase Roullier and Morgan Moses would allow the team to move forward on building a championship roster. The only argument against extending Scherff is the value of devoting a lot of salary cap to a guard, but the importance of the position has been increasing as teams have invested defensive interior pass rushers and run stuffers. Additionally, outside of quarterback or wide receiver, I can’t see the team offering a big-dollar contract to any other free agents in 2021.

With the salary cap restrictions league-wide being what they will be this year, I don’t think Scherff will see a robust market in free agency, meaning that the Football Team can probably get a deal done with him without having to break the bank. I believe Ron Rivera is gonna want to keep Scherff around, and that the team may find a way (maybe simply by offering more guaranteed money) to get a contract done that works for both the player and the franchise. I think the odds are better than even that Brandon Scherff will remain in Washington where he has repeatedly said he wants to be.