Last week on the start of the legal tampering period, under the cover of darkness, the Washington Football Team signed 38 year old veteran signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick, formerly of the Rams, Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, Bucs and Dolphins, to lead the team into the 2021 season. His deal, which is being reported as a one-year $10 million pact, that can grow to $12 million with incentives, is not anything that will break the bank, and should allow the team to be competitive in a weak NFC East.
The biggest issue...no future at the position.
What this does signify, however, is that Ron and staff know the future quarterback of this team is currently not on the roster, but the brass is very serious about competing in 2021 - hence not just rolling with the combination of Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke.
Even more important is this signing does not preclude the Washington Football Team from making another move at quarterback this offseason - likely during April’s draft. In fact, if you are a tea-leaf readers like I am, I think the signing of Fitzmagic actually points towards us doing just that...maybe even moving up to secure the apple of Ron’s eye!
It was reported during his most recent two year stint in Miami, that Fitz was loved and adored by teammates, and lauded by the coaching staff for how he took Tu’a under his wing and mentored him. Even when Tagovailoa took Magic’s job, he was still the omnipresent father figure to the ascending rookie - and this all happened while the magician was playing some of the best football of his career.
I believe Ron and company saw these qualities in Fitzmagic, knew that a drafted rookie signal caller wouldn’t be ready to step in day one, and went out and secured a player who could not only keep the team competitive during the season, but also mentor a young signal caller along the way.
What does Fitzmagic do for the Washington Football Team in 2021? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Historically speaking (and Fitz IS old, so we have the needed history), when the team he has been on has a top defense, and he starts at least seven games, he wins.
The below chart shows his team, their defensive ranks by points against, and his quarterback record when he’s started at least seven games.
...and subsequently, when his defense has stunk, so has he.
So what does this tell us about his potential tenure in Washington?
In 2020, the Washington Football Team had the number four overall defense in the league according to Pro Football Reference. That defense is only expected to get better in year two under Jack Del Rio, and with the return of Matt Ioannidis and Landon Collins from injury. Add in the maturation of young players like Montez Sweat, Chase Young and Kamren Curl, and the recent signing of William Jackson III - and the sky is the limit!
If history proves to be true, and the Football Team indeed has a top five unit again in 2020, many are expecting Washington to improve on their 7-9 record and NFC East title with Fitz at the helm.
But we can’t forget about offense...
Washington should be improved on offense with all five starting offensive lineman returning in 2021. Fitz can certainly improvise when things break down around him, but this unit was very good in pass protection last season, and a year of continuity should only help them flourish.
The addition of Curtis Samuel as a free agent should add some much needed speed and playmaking ability. The 24 year old speedster(4.31 40) is dangerous with the ball in his hands, and can line up all over the formation to force mismatches against opposing defenses. Kelvin Harmon will be returning form a knee injury that kept him out of the 2020 season. He recently posted some videos of him working out, and he looks to be coming along quite nicely. With Antonio Gibson entering year two, and J.D. McKissic returning as a third down weapon, this offense should be fun to watch with Fitz at the helm...and we still have April’s draft to continue improving!
This is where things could get very interesting. If Ron, Martin Mayhew, Marty Hurney and Chris Polian decide to draft a quarterback in April’s draft to learn and be mentored by Fitzpatrick, the table could be set for the future of this franchise.
This could be a perfect storm brewing with Fitzpatrick here to hold down the fort, and act as a mentor for a young signal caller for a year before the reins are handed over.
The question becomes, who would this signal caller be, and how would we acquire him?
There is still a chance Washington can acquire a young veteran via a trade.
- Sam Darnold: Although it’s less likely now, Ron could still take a flier on Darnold following a draft-day trade for a mid-round pick. He can sit, learn and be mentored by Fitzmagic - and simply go from there. If he shows enough promise, the team can sign him long-term and move into 2022 with a franchise signal caller.
The draft offers some enticing prospects, but a move-up to secure one of the top four will likely be required.
- Justin Fields: If Ron falls in love with the big-armed, uber-athletic Buckeye, and Fields falls past the Falcons at four, the Bengals(5th) or Lions(7th) could be potential candidates for a trade-up. It wouldn’t be cheap to move that high, but if the staff wants their guy, they could pull this off.
- Trey Lance: To me, this one makes a bit more sense. Lance has an incredibly high ceiling, but he’s going to need some time before he’s ready. Rivera may see a slightly smaller, yet more athletic version of Cam Newton in Lance, and having Fitz here to hold down the fort, and help prepare the youngster for the rigors of the NFL, may be just what the doctor ordered. Again, I think the spot to start looking at a potential trade-up would be Detroit at number seven.
Prospects after round one:
Keep in mind, most quarterbacks drafted a bit later on are probably not ready to be thrown into the fire as starters right away. Having that savvy veteran here in place for 2021, could allow us to take a more developmental prospect between rounds 2-4.
- Kellen Mond: The former Aggie, who improved as a starter each year at A&M, could come off the board in the late second to mid third of April’s draft. At 6’3” 217 pounds, Mond has a very good arm and great athleticism. He’ll need to work on his decision making and accuracy in the NFL.
- Kyle Trask: Like Mond, Trask should hear his name called somewhere between the latter half of round two-into round three. He has ideal size at 6’5” 240, but lacks ideal athleticism and arm strength.
- Jamie Newman: The former Demon Deacon-turned-Bulldog sat out all of 2020 due to COVID. He has an excellent athletic profile for today’s NFL, but he’s raw and will need work.
- Davis Mills: The Stanford product has ideal NFL size at 6’4” 225, but limited game experience and below-average athleticism will be cause for concern. He’ll need at least a year before he’s ready to begin contributing.
Of course, we can always wait until the 2022 NFL draft...
Which direction should Washington go at quarterback to stabilize the future of this franchise?
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Wait until 2022