The beginning of June often sees a rash of retirement announcements, and that happened again last week as players like Frank Gore and Ryan Fitzpatrick brought an official end to their NFL careers with announcements of one sort or another. One reason for the timing of these announcements is that they come during a slow news time in the NFL, so the retirement announcements get noticed in the rather empty canvas of early-summer NFL. Another reason is that, by waiting until after June 1st, players who retire with unprorated bonus payments still on the books help their teams manage the salary cap hit (that wasn’t a factor for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed a one-year deal with the Washington Football Team last year).
Most NFL players retire without really knowing that they’ve done it. They simply don’t get signed...time passes, and more time passes. Anyone who has followed the Taylor Heinicke story closely will know that he gave himself a 2-year period, determining that he would retire at that point if he couldn’t generate interest from an NFL team. He has often told the story, in fact, of contacting Washington’s offensive coordinator, Scott Turner to inquire about a coaching internship, only to have Turner tell him to be patient — that the COVID situation meant that Washington wanted to add a quarterback, and that Heinicke could be that guy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Former Redskins LB Will Compton, seems to be more focused on his career as a podcaster than as an NFL linebacker, so I was pretty surprised when he got signed by the Raiders 3 different times last season, spending time on the practice squad and the 53-man roster. Per Over the Cap, Compton earned over $340,000 for his limited service in 2021.
Washington has some former players who may already be retired but just don’t know it yet. OT David Steinmetz, edge rusher Jalen Jelks, and WR Dylan Cantrell are all candidates for the USFL, Canadian Football League, Walmart — or they could be one phone call away from a Heinicke-like career resurrection. Among veterans who have played well in the past, LB Jon Bostic may have already reached the end of his NFL story whether that’s his choice or not.
But there are several former Washington players who don’t seem to be quite that close to involuntary retirement from the NFL — guys who contributed to the Football Team last season, and who seem to be decent candidates for continued employment in the NFL — that aren’t signed to a contract with Washington or any other NFL team yet.
I suspect that the safety / linebacker Landon Collins would top most people’s lists for the highest profile former Redskin and Football Teamer that remains unemployed, chiefly for the fact that so many Commanders fans are calling for him to be re-signed by the team now, albeit at a lower salary.
Collins’ release was driven less by any decline in play than it was concern for salary cap impact. Collins’ contract had an average annual value of $14m, and by releasing him when they did, the Commanders gained $11.88m in cap space for 2022, along with the salary and bonuses he would have been due in ‘23 & ‘24.
There’s no doubt that Landon Collins can play at a high level in the NFL. The issue for Collins is that he is a box safety with limited coverage skills who wants to be paid like a safety with good coverage skills.
The trick for Collins will be to find a team that needs his skill set, and then to come to grips with the fact that his skill set is worth less than he was being paid under his most recent contract with Washington.
The reason that fans continue to raise the possibility of Collins returning to DC is that he clearly fits Jack Del Rio’s defense very well — just not as the all-round safety that he wants to be. Collins was the ideal fit for the so-called “Buffalo Nickel” position — a position that Collins clearly didn’t like playing, but one where he excelled on the football field.
There may be another team out there that has just as good a fit for Collins that is willing to pay him more than Ron Rivera is, or there may be an NFL GM that sees Collins the way he sees himself, as an all-round safety with several years of strong play ahead of him.
Collins will probably end up playing in the NFL somewhere in 2022, but he’s not likely to sign a contract until he comes to grips with his current value (in contract dollar terms) to an NFL defense.
While Collins was a highly successful NY GIant (3 x Pro Bowler, 1 x All Pro) who was allowed to leave, he came to Washington and never enjoyed the same success that he’d had as a Giant.
Ereck Flowers was also drafted by the New York Giants — in the same draft, actually, as was Landon Collins. Flowers, drafted 9th overall in 2015, was put at the tackle position where he struggled mightily. In the 4th year of his rookie contract, the Giants’ front office traded him to the Jaguars at mid-season, but the Jags didn’t try to re-sign him when the 2018 season drew to a close.
Flowers signed a one-year deal to play in Washington in 2019, and the move revived his career. The Redskins moved Flowers to the guard position, which seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. When he entered free agency ahead of the 2020 season, the Dolphins gave Flowers a 3-year, $30m contract.
Unfortunately for Flowers, Miami wasn’t as thrilled with him as Washington had been, so in April last year, they traded him back to Washington, and agreed to pay most of his salary for the ‘21 season, meaning that the Football Team had him at LG for the bargain price of $3m for one year.
This season (2022) would have been the final year of Flowers’ contract, which called for him to earn $10m. I’m not sure whether the team tried to renegotiate his deal or extend him to lower his cap hit, but, after enjoying another good season in Washington in 2021, the Commanders front office released him at the start of the league year in March, 2022, signing former Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell to a two-year, $10m contract to replace him.
Flowers has not been popular in NY, Jacksonville or Miami, but he has played two good seasons in Washington. He is likely to get signed by a team that loses a player to injury in preseason or early in the regular season and needs a starting-quality guard to take over.
I’ve always liked Adam Humphries. Not only was I pleased when the Washington Football Team signed him to a contract last year, but I was surprised that they did so on a minimum-dollar deal. Clearly, I thought Humphries was more valuable than anyone else did.
Watching him play last year, I was impressed. He wasn’t targeted a great deal, but he somehow always seemed to make the play when the ball was thrown to him. In fact, he managed 23 first downs in 41 receptions. Re-watching the Week 14 victory against Seattle this week reminded me that he also recovered the Seahawks’ final onside kick to seal the victory, so that’s a bonus.
I honestly thought that the Commanders brass would bring Adam Humphries back in 2022, at least for training camp. I see him as a reliable receiver who can be counted on when the offense needs a play, and I actually think he could have been targeted more in 2021, but Heinicke tended to rely on JD McKissic and Logan Thomas as his ‘security blankets’ when he needed them.
Personally, I expect Humphries to be able to continue his NFL career in 2022, especially if he’s still happy to sign a minimum-salary contract, but, then, as I said already, I’ve always liked him more than anyone else seems to.
Which player will be the first to sign another NFL contract?
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