Hidden among the treasure trove of short term free agent signings in 2020 was Cornelius Lucas, a journeyman offensive tackle who had played for the Lions, Rams, Saints, and Bears before signing a two-year deal worth $3.74M with Washington last season. As an offensive lineman, Lucas didn’t garner the same level of attention as other free agent standouts like Logan Thomas, JD McKissic, or Ronald Darby, but, in my opinion, his contribution was at least as important, and his value to the team, equal or greater than several of those guys.
Last May, when I was trying to convince folks that the offensive line wasn’t going to be as bad as many people thought - it ended up being the 6th best in the league - Lucas was a significant part of the reason I was so comfortable:
The Redskins’ most experienced option at the position is free agent Cornelius Lucas, signed to a 2-year, $3.8M deal in the offseason. Here’s how Lucas stacked up (per PFF) against our starting tackles last season:
Morgan Moses: 65.2 (16 games played; 16 started at right tackle)
Donald Penn: 64.1 (16 games played; 15 started at left tackle)
Cornelius Lucas: 72.2 (16 games played; 8 starts at right tackle)
So, Lucas outplayed - in something of a relief role - both of our starting tackles last year. That’s consistent with the assessment from one of the Bears’ beat reporters earlier this year:
“While he wasn’t fantastic, he was pretty good,” Biggs concedes. “He put together some decent tape and I think you felt by the end of the season that Lucas was a guy that took that a minimum salary one-year deal and earned himself some money in free-agency.”
That sounds a lot like Ty Nsekhe before he got his deal with the Bills.
Lucas actually improved significantly in 2020 - with a PFF grade of 78.2 - as did Moses (80.6), playing in 14 games at left tackle and starting 8 of them. For the entire season he gave up one penalty and two sacks.
Washington OT Cornelius Lucas finished Week 9 with an overall grade of 86.1, the highest of any tackle in the NFL per @PFF.— Ryan Fowler (@FowlerRyan1) November 9, 2020
Now, in the lead up to free agency and the draft, there is all manner of scrambling and postulating about what to do at left tackle: Should we use a first round pick? Should we trade a first round pick for someone like Orlando Brown? Should we slide Morgan Moses to left tackle and draft a new right tackle?
What if, all along, the answer has been right in front of us?
Looking at the Alternatives
Drafting a Left Tackle in the First - Mel Kiper, Daniel Jeremiah, and much of the rest of the mock drafteratti have speculated that Washington will use pick #19 to draft a player like Christian Darrisaw, out of Virginia Tech, to fill an assumed position of need on the offensive line.
I’d never advocate against drafting a tackle (or two), but I just don’t think it rises to the level of a top priority, and given that we don’t need - and probably aren’t in a position to get, even if we did need - a day 1 starter at left tackle, I think it makes sense to keep our first round powder dry for higher positions of need, and to focus heavily on targeting a tackle who could use a year or two of seasoning on the bench during Day 2 of the draft.
Trading for a Left Tackle - Top flight left tackles rarely hit the free agent market, but this year, the Ravens’ tackle Orlando Brown has created a bit of a conundrum for the team. He had originally been their right tackle. He filled in last year for the injured Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, and he apparently enjoyed it enough to proclaim - Al Haig style - “I’m a LEFT tackle” on twitter last year. Apparently, the Ravens disagree and are now shopping him. Brown has one year left on his rookie deal, but the speculation is that he won’t come cheap, and could end up costing as much as a first round pick.
Interestingly, Brown’s PFF grades of 76.4 in 2020 and 72 in 2019 were lower than Lucas’ both years.
Sliding Moses to Left Tackle and Drafting a Right Tackle - Certainly, right tackles are easier to find in the draft, but the reality is, as well as Lucas played last year, Moses played even better, with a PFF grade of 80.6. Finally fully healthy, Moses seemed to find his groove in 2020. I think messing with that level of performance would be a mistake, and we should leave well enough alone. Keeping Moses at right tackle becomes even more critical if the team isn’t able to reach a long term contract with Brandon Scherff.
Among a fanbase with a perpetual insecurity complex about its offensive line, Cornelius Lucas is a Dangerfieldian figure, disrespected because of a lack of draft pedigree and oversized paycheck. Like many left tackles, however, he’s seems to have taken a few years to really come into his own.
Presumably, his potential was spotted by the impressive John Matsko, Washington’s offensive line coach who groomed yet another All Pro lineman this year. I’m not only content sticking with Lucas, I think it would make sense to extend him this offseason, to wrap him up for a few more years (he’ll be 30 by the time the season rolls around). Let’s focus our top end draft resources elsewhere, and reward the player right under our noses, while it’s still affordable to do so.
In ESPN's Run Block and Pass Block win rates, he was top 5. Dude was solid last season... Why not give Lucas a shot at LT and then re-sign him if he plays well again?https://t.co/49irGYSPaD— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) March 14, 2021
What do you think Washington should do at left tackle this offseason?
This poll is closed
Plan on rolling with Lucas.
Target a left tackle in the first round.
Trade for a player like Brown.
Geron Christian is the way.