As reported here on Hogs Haven yesterday, the Washington front office announced the release of five players this week.
We have released the following players:— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) April 9, 2021
DT Caleb Brantley
WR Emanuel Hall
RB Javon Leake
TE Thaddeus Moss
RB Michael Warren pic.twitter.com/DrSRVRAL61
These moves, together with a quiet addition or two in the later stages of veteran free agency, have altered the landscape of the roster, so it seemed like a good time — with the draft 18 days away — to update the WFT depth chart.
I wanted to add a feature to the chart; specifically, I wanted to include the 2021 cap hit for each player with a value above $1m. You will see that number next to each qualifying player. I think this may help facilitate discussion of the depth chart, though for some freshly signed free agents (specifically Samuel and Jackson) the cap numbers are a bit misleading as they are very low compared to the contract APY.
That change led me to re-format the presentation of the player lists slightly from previous articles.
The second “feature” is a color coding system that I’ve added for the first time. It is pretty basic:
The assignment of colors is a bit arbitrary — based solely on my subjective judgement — as are is the order that players are presented on the depth chart. In particular, the yellow coded players identified as backups/ST players could be pushed off the roster by talented draft picks.
I have cross referenced three sources in an effort to insure that the players listed are up-to-date and accurately reflect the roster. I feel pretty confident that the Football Team currently has:
- 41 offensive players
- 35 defensive players
- 2 Special Teams specialists
78 total players under contract.
The Football Team has 8 draft picks, and can bring a maximum of 90 healthy players to camp, so there will be room to add about 4 undrafted free agents post-draft. If the team wants to add more than that, then they will need to cut someone to make room, or eventually designate someone to go on NFI/PUP/IR or other reserve list.
Looking at the chart, the greatest area of need appears to be the weakside linebacker (or WILL) position. I think most draft analysts at this point seem to agree that the franchise will be targeting the LB position during the draft, and needs to come away with at least one legitimate starting LB candidate.
Related: Washington Football Team depth chart as of 20 March 2021
Of course, ANY position can be upgraded if the right player is available when Washington is on the clock, but I’d like to identify two groups of positions (beyond WILL) that seem to merit focus going into the draft.
Looking to upgrade the starter
While I think most fans were pleasantly surprised at the job that Cornelius Lucas did in 2021, John Keim in particular has repeatedly reported that the team wants to upgrade here. By all accounts, this is a deep draft for Tackles in particular and OL in general, meaning that Washington could have “several bites at the apple” with 4 picks in the top-100.
Similar to the performance from Lucas, two players — Jeremy Reaves and Deshazor Everett — both stepped up in a big way in 2020 at the free safety position. It wouldn’t be a tragedy if the team went though another season relying on them, but if the right player is available, the front office shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a talented free safety.
Slot/Nickel Corner and SAM Linebacker
Again, Jimmy Moreland and Cole Holcomb have both played well, but there may be an opportunity to draft a better player or two to improve the roster.
This is an interesting group of players. Curtis Samuel played his best season of football as a pro last year when he lined up frequently as a slot receiver. Most people saw the signing of Adam Humphries as a sign that Humphries would play primarily in the slot, meaning that Samuel could typically split wide opposite McLaurin.
But Humphries isn’t being paid like a starter. He signed a one-year deal worth less than $1.2m. That’s backup money.
Let’s consider two “what ifs” here”
- What if Humphries was signed as a backup and not as a starter? What if Curtis Samuel is the guy Washington sees as the primary slot receiver and the team will be looking at the draft for a ‘z’ receiver with talent? It appears as if there will be a lot of receiving talent available. If this is the plan, then Washington needs a top-end talent capable of getting on the field early.
- What if Humphries was signed to compete for the starting slot position, freeing up Samuel as a starting wideout opposite McLauren? If that is the case, then the depth chart looks heavy with potential backups at the slot and ‘z’ receiver positions, but seems to be lacking a quality backup for McLaurin — a player with speed, route running ability and reliable hands. The Washington brainstrust would need to be looking for a player in the middle rounds of the draft with speed and high upside potential who may still be a bit raw to learn behind McLaurin.
Looking to upgrade backups
In some cases, Washington has a high-quality starter in place, but lacks the depth to continue competing at a high level if the starter is injured.
We’ve already discussed the need to get a quality backup for Terry McLaurin, but there are a few other positions on the roster that face similar lack of depth.
Montez Sweat and Chase Young may be the best pair of defensive ends in the NFL, but with Ryan Anderson leaving in free agency and Ryan Kerrigan an unsigned free agent, the depth behind the two starters looks a bit grim. Smith-Williams is a promising second year player with great athleticism, but the team needs at least one more high-upside developmental player at this position.
If the team drafts a starting Left Tackle, then Corn Lucas can take on the role of swing tackle, but that still leaves a motley crew of unproven interior offensive linemen to back up the solid starting group of Schweitzer-Roullier-Scherff. The guys behind them are:
- Wes Martin
- Keith Ismael
- Saahdiq Charles
- Tyler Larsen
- Michael Leidtke
The answer to the team’s needs may already reside in that group, but another option might be for the team to draft a player that seems to have T/G flexibility. Players like Alex Leatherwood and Alijah Vera-Tucker would seem to fit the bill here.
I’m at a loss to fully explain the coaching staff’s love affair with Peyton Barber. The team seems to be in a perfect situation to add a young back to play behind Gibson if Bryce Love isn’t healthy enough to finally begin his NFL career, and the team should probably bring in a 3rd down back to develop behind McKissic.
We really only have one.
Washington doesn’t have one. The plan for this position was recently discussed in its own article.
Special Case - quarterback
Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past several weeks, you’ll be aware of all the discussion surrounding what Washington should do about the most important position.
I look at the depth chart and feel pretty good about the ability to compete in 2021. I am completely opposed to the idea of trading up for a QB in this draft. I am not opposed to a pick in 2nd-4th rounds (specifically, I’m thinking of a player like Kellen Mond, here), but I’m inclined to look for the long term solution next season.