The signing of not just one, but two electric players under center that have proven to generate excitement and buzz in the nation’s capital.
The addition of a wide receiver that isn’t just a solid professional football player, but one who FITS what is it we’re trying to do here.
The inking of a starting cornerback with size, speed and strength whose skills are tailormade for a defensive front that forces opposing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly.
The under-the-radar move to bring in a slot receiver who has experience with one of the newly minted quarterbacks—showcasing front-office smarts.
We’re not talking about recruiting and scoring on a host of Hall of Fame-caliber players to transform the Washington Football Team from mediocre to legit Super Bowl contender, but we are talking about taking care of business in what can only be described in positive terms.
It is safe to say I have thoroughly enjoyed this WFT offseason. I know I’m not alone.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke—together with Kyle Allen—comprise a better quarterback room than the one we started 2020 with, mostly because that 2020 room featured a guy with limited experience and another with limited legs. Some people like to float the ol’ “If you have three quarterbacks you would be happy to start, you don’t have any real starting quarterbacks.” I understand what that means, and I have seen where that was true right here in this very town. Ahem….Danny Wuerffel…cough…Shane Matthews…cough, cough…Patrick Ramsey…(unfair to Patrick Ramsey, the rookie first-rounder who was introduced to the NFL with Steve Spurrier’s famous Minimum-Protect pass-pro scheme). This group is different. Fitzpatrick is the anti-Wuerffel. Even without taking over as the long-term franchise quarterback anywhere, Fitz has taken over just about every town he has ridden into. He is smart, physical, unafraid to sling it, and he is the rare example of a guy who doesn’t have to have been somewhere to command respect in the huddle. Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke aren’t striking fear in the hearts of opposing defensive coordinators, but both have proven capable of running Scott Turner’s offense, which as the season wears on, will be extremely relevant. If and when Fitz has to leave the field, both Allen and Heinicke can get the ball to Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas. This isn’t me doing anything more than suggesting we will see competent, professional quarterback play in 2021, and that has not always been the case for us. More than that, this quarterback room allows the WFT front office to not have to immediately overpay for the future franchise guy. That opens up options in the first three or four rounds for the team.
When the announcement was made that Washington had signed Curtis Samuel, it was euphoria in the studio. Not just because Samuel is a 24-year old player with elite athleticism, but because he can line up pretty much everywhere in an offensive scheme that relies on that kind of multiplicity. Scott Turner’s 21 personnel package is designed to get a pair of guys like Antonio Gibson and Curtis Samuel in the backfield pre-snap (JD McKissic in the mix as well). You want defenses to believe you would hand off or throw to either guy, and depending on where that tight end is lined up, you are supposed to end up with one half of the field having an obvious mismatch that the quarterback needs to be able to identify early. For our offense to succeed in 2021, we needed Samuel, and Rivera knew that. Not being forced to find that kind of player in the first or second round of the draft is a big deal—it opens up some options for WFT on day one and two.
Another huge need for Washington (and most teams for that matter) was at cornerback. William Jackson has been good without being the kind of ball hawk in his short career that would have cost tens of millions more dollars. He is a strong player that has good size for a corner, and he is precisely the kind of guy who would benefit from a defensive front forcing quick decisions by opposing quarterbacks. Sure, all cornerbacks benefit from such things, but again, that more coveted Richard-Sherman-in-his-prime kind of guy who can cover for five, six, seven seconds wasn’t available. Teams are always in need of starting caliber corners, and to get the next good one, you are almost certainly going to be forced to go hunting in the first or second round. Adding William Jackson to partner with Kendall Fuller gives WFT a solid starting corner tandem, opening up those initial rounds in the draft for…who knows?
The Adam Humphries deal isn’t necessarily one that eliminates a position from your draft board, but it does something that else: it helps the first two moves move (signing Fitzpatrick and Samuel) work out better, which is key to allowing WFT to have every option in front if it come draft day. Humphries has run routes for Fitzmagic in the past, and allowing a quarterback to have a little comfort in his slot receiver is smart. Further, if you really want to be able to move Samuel all over the field, you need to have someone who can be a more traditional slot guy in the mix. Humphries fills that bucket, which allows the WFT front office to not be so laser focused on adding a slot receiver in the first rounds of this upcoming draft.
Keep in mind, Washington could draft a quarterback, a wide receiver, a cornerback, or any combination of these positions on days one and two of the draft. But these signings create flexibility that we simply didn’t have before.
My question to you, and one we will cover on our next episode of Thank God It’s Tuesday is: What additional moves can be made to open up draft day flexibility? Trading for a player of the same kind of quality as an Orlando Brown Jr.? Signing more veteran linebackers? There will be names on the street even in the short time between now and the draft that could at least lessen the priority for a position or two…
(Tight end is definitely still in play as well, despite the Chilean flavor that was just added.)