NFL Offseason Outlook: Washington Looks To Build Off NFC East Title, Take Next Step

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No one could have predicted the type of season that Washington would have in 2020. The team entered the season for the first time ever without a nickname after the club dropped the name “Redskins,” and when they took the field they were known simply as the “Washington Football Team.”

On the field, the club had their struggles early. A last-second field goal by the Lions in Ford Field gave Washington another loss, and the team was sitting at just 2-7 with seven games left.

That’s when Coach Ron Rivera and the team really focused and stepped up. They also started to get better play at the quarterback spot, especially with NFL “Comeback Player of the Year” Alex Smith.

Suddenly, the team won four in a row. They were the first team in 2020 to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, dropping them to 11-1 with a 23-17 win at Heinz Field.

By the final week of the season, Washington had a lot to play for, going into Lincoln Financial Field for a nationally-televised Sunday night game against the Eagles.

A victory put them at 7-9, which in this odd season was enough to crown them NFC East Champions.

Their playoff run was a quick one, as they learned firsthand just how good Tom Brady is in the playoffs. The Buccaneers beat Washington 31-23.

Despite all that, Washington feels they have some good young talent, and they enter this offseason with an estimated $42.6 million in cap space for 2021, meaning they have flexibility to make moves.

The former Skins do have free agents, and they will have to figure out what to do with them. However, they won’t be crushed with players leaving as they have been in the past.

Here’s a list of the 18 Washington free agents for 2021:

RB Lamar Miller
WR Cam Sims*
WR Robert Foster*
TE Jeremy Sprinkle
RT David Sharpe
RG Brandon Scherff
EDGE Ryan Kerrigan
EDGE Ryan Anderson
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
LB Thomas Davis
LB Mychal Kendricks
LB Jared Norris
LB Reuben Foster
CB Ronald Darby
CB Fabian Moreau
CB Danny Johnson*
LS Nick Sundberg
K Dustin Hopkins

Offseason Outlook: One free agent that Washington should look to secure is offensive guard Brandon Scherff, who last season played on a one-year, $15.03 million contract. He can be the cornerstone of the line, but it will be up to the team and Scherff’s agent to try and hammer out a long-term deal.

How good has Scherff been? He played on 857 of the team’s snaps in 13 starts, yet he had only two penalties all year long and gave up just three sacks. No matter who is playing quarterback, having Scherff is a good thing for this team.

Speaking of quarterback, the team needs an answer about whether Alex Smith is planning on returning in 2021, and if he is, Ron Rivera and the coaching staff have to figure out whether he’s the answer at quarterback.

Washington’s name has also been linked to the likes of Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz. With about $40 million in cap space, Washington has the money to make a deal for one of these QBs, should they so choose.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see Washington get a quarterback that might become a franchise QB, as well as a big name wide receiver who can spread the field. Think JuJu Smith-Schuster.

WFT’s defense played well enough at the end of 2020 to allow the team to sneak into the playoffs.

The team will also have a decision to make on long-time LB Ryan Kerrigan, who is a free agent. He was their first-round pick in 2011, though at this point in his career, he isn’t a starter. He’s more of a player to count on in key situations and who can share knowledge with young players. How much are these things worth to WFT?

Expect to hear Washington’s name as a major player in free agency and trade talks. Though they finished under .500 last year, the team felt good about their overall direction, winning their division with a young defense that can match up with almost any team in the NFL. Both are good starts to being a force again in the league.

Written by Matt Loede

Matt has been a part of the Cleveland Sports landscape working in the media since 1994 when he graduated from broadcasting school. His coverage beats include the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers. He's written three books, and won the "2020 AP Sports Stringer Lifetime Service Award."

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