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Will Geron Christian and Troy Apke be packing their bags soon?

NFL: Washington Football Team at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It was reported today that two veteran free agents recently cut by their respective teams, Charles Leno of the Bears and Bobby McCain of the Dolphins, will visit the Washington Football Team facility next week as Ron Rivera continues to strengthen and deepen the Football Team roster in an effort to repeat as NFC East champions. This could end the Washington careers of two 2020 Week 1 starters, LT Geron Christian and FS Troy Apke, both of whom were benched midseason by head coach Ron Rivera.

The team has been seeking to upgrade both positions this offseason.

Left Tackle

Last season’s starter at left tackle, Cornelius Lucas, will be very familiar with Charles Leno, as the two were teammates in Chicago in 2019, when Leno was the starting left tackle and Lucas started several games at right tackle. Lucas was signed by the WFT from the Bears a year ago and, when healthy, was the starting left tackle for the Football Team from Week 7 onward.

Related: Washington will host LT Charles Leno Jr. for a free agent visit on Monday

If Washington signs Leno, it would likely be with the intention of having Leno displace Lucas as the starter, forcing Lucas into the role of backup (swing) tackle for both the left and right side tackle positions. Veteran Morgan Moses is the entrenched starter at right tackle.

  • Leno was ranked #32 in overall blocking grade by PFF in 2020, and #23 in pass blocking.
  • Washington’s Cornelius Lucas, considered by many to be a journeyman right tackle, graded out 23rd overall and 14th(t) in pass blocking (It’s important to note that PFF grades are not the gospel on player rankings, merely a data point for consideration).
  • Leno was scheduled to make $8.9m in 2021; Lucas is scheduled to collect around $1.6m.
  • The two players are the same age.

Other key players at the left tackle position

Washington has been drafting offensive linemen with regularity, and this year selected Samuel Cosmi in the second round. Though Cosmi is athletically gifted, his technique is a bit unrefined and the feeling is that he may need some development time before he is ready to step in as the starting blindside protector.

Last year, Washington selected Saahdiq Charles from LSU in the 4th round. The expectation is that Charles will move from tackle to guard in the NFL. The former Tiger left tackle had an injury-plagued rookie year, with only one brief appearance in a game midseason, where he lined up at left guard.

The drafting of Cosmi and interest in Leno probably sound the death knell for the hopes of Geron Christian III, who was taken in the third round of the 2018 draft and who began the 2020 season as the starting left tackle before being benched in favor of Lucas. Christian was viewed as a project when he was drafted, but has failed — so far, at least — to develop into the player the franchise had hoped for when they selected him.

No matter the outcome of Leno’s visit to Washington on Monday, the depth chart and upcoming training camp battles at left tackle and left guard should be entertaining and should also result in a better offensive line unit than coach Rivera was able to field last season.

Free Safety

Washington has struggled to acquire and keep a talented free safety ever since the murder of Sean Taylor in 2007, and the possibility of signing Bobby McCain, while not restoring the position to the All-Pro level that Taylor provided to the Redskins, would provide a potential upgrade to the current roster and add some of the depth needed in a 17-game season.

McCain, drafted in 2015, signed a 4-year extension with the Dolphins in 2018. He was due to earn $6.4m in 2021 and $7.0m in 2022. At this point in the offseason, many clubs are limited on cap space. OverTheCap currently lists Washington as one of only 11 teams with at least $16m in available cap space for 2021. McCain is likely to find limited opportunities at this point for a big contract, and is likely to seek out an opportunity to either get significant playing time or to join a high-quality roster with playoff opportunities.

Washington may be able to provide both of those things.

Current WFT Depth Chart

McCain is 27 years old, and was selected in the 5th round of the 2015 draft. He is listed at 5’11” and 192 pounds.

He played 923 defensive snaps in 2020, with 717 of them coming at free safety, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s no Pro Bowler, but is a competent veteran safety. PFF gave him an overall defensive grade of 62.1 last season, which ranks 48th among all safeties with a minimum of 400 snaps. In other words, McCain graded out among the top 64 safeties in the league, which indicates that he is a starter-quality player at the position.

Related: Washington will host FS Bobby McCain for a free agent visit on Monday

Washington began the 2020 season with former Penn State Nittany Lion Troy Apke at free safety, but he was benched in Week 6 due to poor performance in favor of Deshazor Everett. When Everett was injured, the coaches did not turn back to Apke, instead promoting Jeremy Reaves, who had begun the season on the practice squad. With both Reaves and Everett set to return in 2021, and this week’s selection of Darrick Forrest in the draft, there may be no room for Apke on the roster if Washington signs McCain to a free agent deal (and maybe even if he isn’t signed).

Neither Deshazor Everett nor Jeremy Reaves played over 400 defensive snaps last year, but the two primary free safeties for the latter part of the Washington season were both graded by PFF. Everett received a grade of 61.9 on 357 snaps, while Reaves got a grade of 81.2 on 263 snaps.

Final thought

A look at the depth chart above should show that the team has perhaps the best defense in the NFL in 2021, and that unit could be improved slightly with the signing of McCain. The offense is packed with weapons at wide receiver, running back, and even at TE with the breakout of Logan Thomas in 2020. With the addition of Charles Leno at LT to help protect QB Ryan Fitzpatrick following on, as it would, from all the other offseason roster additions, the offense could make a 180-degree turnaround from its 29th place ranking of a season ago.

This potential improvement in fortunes may come at a price. The Washington front office and coaching staff may well be cutting a number of recent draft picks at the end of training camp as the roster is winnowed to 53 players. With probably no more than 6 wide receiver slots available for example, half of the 12 receivers currently on the roster will probably be without a chair when the music stops at the end of August. Offensive line is another spot where players drafted by Washington and still on their rookie contracts could well be waived ahead of the season opener. There will be a number of players who have contributed to the team in recent years who may end up on the practice squad or on the street, but that should be seen as a good thing; it is a sign that the roster is improving.

With an elite defense, a competent quarterback and a passel of receiving and rushing threats, the Football Team seems well-positioned for the upcoming season, but the front office is not yet done with the roster-building effort. The current skill and depth can be enhanced, and it looks as if Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew will keep searching in an effort to build the strongest roster possible as they continue to strive for NFL success.