By Paul Mainwaring

As one season ends and another one begins, 32 NFL franchises put 2020 firmly in the rear view mirror and gear up for another tilt at the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The hard work starts here, and for many has already begun; general managers and head coaches are finalising their staff and looking ahead to turning their rosters into potential challengers.

In this series we identify the key components that go into building a winning team, and what each franchise needs to do to be in the mix come the playoffs next January. We continue our team by team offseason review with a look at the Washington Football Team:

2020 Recap

Washington Football Team 2020

A new year, a new name, and some may say a new Washington Football Team. As a fan of this franchise for the past 35 years no one needs to tell me what a disaster zone they have been  recently, and it seemed 2020 wasn’t going to be much better given news of the scandals within the front office, but they seem to have turned a small corner.

The name was finally and thankfully changed, some well thought out and interesting hires were made throughout the franchise including a new head coach in Ron Rivera, and do you know what happened, they looked competent. I am not going to say 7-9 is very good but based on where Washington have been it’s a step in the right direction. They won a horrible division, played excellent defense and hosted a playoff game, all while their coach battled cancer and they started 4 different QB’s. Not bad WFT, not bad at all.

Staff Changes

Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For Washington, the staff changes have come in the front office rather than on the field, with Ron Rivera keeping the majority of his staff. It should be noted that Washington did hire Jennifer King as their assistant running backs coach, making her the NFL’s first black female assistant coach; I don’t like to commend things that should already be happening across the league but it is worth noting and I hope that Jennifer is the first of many such hires in the NFL.

In the front office, 2 major changes have occurred. Martin Mayhew becomes the new Washington General Manager after leaving a front-office post in San Francisco. Mayhew has been a GM before in Detroit where he was GM from 2008 to 2015. As Rivera has the power Mayhew will report to him but getting someone in with this level of experience should ease some burden on Rivera.

Washington also hired Chris Polian to work as director of Pro Personnel, which is a similar role he filled in Jacksonville from 2013 to 2019. Given the turbulence in Jacksonville Washington fans will hope his career in Washington goes much smoother.

State Of The Roster

A division title does not hide the fact that last year was a transition year and there is still a lot to do with this Franchise to get them to be a consistent playoff team. The offense needs a lot of work; at present there is no long term starter  at quarterback, and I am not sure this will be addressed this season, so it will be another year of make do and mend. McLaurin and Thomas had excellent years, as did Antonio Gibson when he was fit. But this is it for offensive skills players and that is clearly not enough. On defense the line is great but it makes up for multiple weaknesses in the linebackers and secondary most notably that they don’t cover consistently. This is masked by a dominant D-Line but any time they met a team with a decent O-Line the defense struggled to get off the field.

Salary Cap & Cut Candidates

Week 12 Power Rankings
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

By the time you read this Alex Smith will likely have been cut. Although last season was a fantastic story it is not surprising given his health, age and salary that the WFT have decided to move on. By making this move WFT would be $52million under the cap, which makes them one of the teams with the most space – very intriguing for a talent deficient team.

Outside of Smith and given the cap situation I would not expect too many other cuts. The only possible exception is Peyton Barber who did not have a consistent role on the offense and would save Washington another $1.3m.

Free Agents

Credit: John McDonnell

Washington’s main concern around their free agents revolves around Guard Brandon Scherff. Based on reports both sides are confident of a deal but even if a deal cannot be worked out I would think Washington would tag him again. Scherff is one of the best guards in the league so it would be madness to let him leave.

Another player they may target to bring back in ua Ronald Darby. He has had a chequered and injury-riddled career but in his first year in Washington, he played a career-high 16 games and was a consistent and valuable part of the defense. The injury history is a concern but again I expect him to be back.

Team Needs

DraftKings Week 1
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The glaring need for Washington is at QB. They have re-signed Heineke and will have Kyle Allen on the roster but neither of these players are the long term answer. They did speak to the Lions about Stafford and I assume they will have made a call to Houston about Watson, but I don’t think they will solve the QB position this season. They may look at a QB in the draft but being at 19 and how many QB needy teams there are, I just don’t see it happening.

A position I do think Washington will address is Wide Receiver. They will covet Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin but I am not sure either of their teams will let them reach Free Agency. If this doesn’t happen I would be stunned if Curtis Samuel wasn’t on the roster come the start of the season, given his ties to Rivera and his staff.

When it comes to the draft I expect them to go offensive tackle. They still need a long term replacement for Trent Williams, and they may find that with the 19th pick. Alex Chinery has Washington picking one of his Longhorns (Sam Cosmi) in the draft and I think this is a sensible pick – even if my colleague did pick him as a homer……

Paul Mainwaring

NFL Analyst

A former UKEndzone writer, Paul has been dragged out of an enforced retirement to give his thoughts on the NFL and anything else  he can slide past the editorial team.

Paul is most famous (infamous?) as Mainz one half of Waxing Lyrical. alongside his Partner in Crime Neil Dutts Dutton.

Find him @Mainzey7 where all manner of sports are on the menu.


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