Washington Redskins: Can Ron Rivera Turn the Franchise Around?
A rough 2019 season ended with some positives for the Washington Redskins. Finishing 3-13 and looking for a new head coach is never ideal but if it leads to a change in methodology then it may actually end up being a positive. The Redskins will also get a chance to draft defensive end sensation Chase Young in the upcoming draft with the second overall pick. If Young develops into the player many expect and Dwayne Haskins continues some of the early development that we have seen then the Redskins will have the pieces in place to hopefully get back to challenging for the NFC East.
General Manager: Vacant
Head Coach: Ron Rivera
Rivera comes to the Redskins off the back of nine years as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. In that time he went 79-67-1 including the playoffs, with four postseason appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl in 2015. His background as a coach is on the defensive side of the ball where the Redskins have some very interesting pieces for him to work with.
As well as the departure of Jay Gruden in 2019, the Redskins also moved on from General Manager Bruce Allen. Bruce Allen has been an executive in the NFL for 13 seasons and in that time his teams have gone 83-125, with just four winning seasons while never winning a playoff game in three attempts. In Washington his numbers are especially bad, with just one winning season, a 45-83 record and a solitary playoff game.
The Redskins have yet to officially name a General Manager which could either mean Ron Rivera is taking the responsibility of running the organisation, or Dan Snyder has decided he is taking full responsibility for his team. The upcoming offseason could be very telling about the power situation in Washington, and if handled correctly could shape a turnaround in the franchises fortunes.
Cap Space: $44.5 million
The Washington Redskins are in a fascinating place salary cap wise. They undeniably have talent on their roster ad picking second overall is only going to add to that. They also have a significant chunk of capital they could invest to try and take a shot at a mediocre NFC East.
If they really wanted to make some big free agent moves they could open up more cap space if they are willing to move on from some high profile names. Trent Williams refused to play for the team last year and is set to count $14.75m against the cap this season. If they decide to trade him or cut him then they could add $12.75m to their salary cap space this offseason.
Other big names who could be on their way out include Josh Norman ($12.5m) and Jordan Reed ($8.5m). Norman is no longer the same corner he once was, although a reunion with Rivera ad his old scheme from Carolina could mean the Redskins give him another year. Reed is undeniably talented but he simply cannot stay healthy. The Redskins could utilise that $8.5m is far superior ways to a tight end that spends a significant number of games injured each seasons. A final big name to mention is Ryan Kerrigan ($11.7m) who would be a surprising cut given the experience he can offer to potential new arrival Chase Young.
Other potential cut candidates include right tackle Morgan Moses ($4.5m), linebacker Quinton Dunbar ($3.4m) kicker Dustin Hopkins ($2.9m) and declining the club option on running back Adrian Peterson ($2.25m). All four of those would leave little dead cap space but it would be somewhat surprising to see the team move on from Peterson and Hopkins this offseason.
Impending Free Agents
One advantage of not having been a very good football team is that you do not have many free agents to worry about in some seasons. 2020 looks a little like that for the Redskins. Guard Brandon Scherff is arguably the best player set to leave but his play has declined since his first three years in Washington. Vernon Davis’ experience may be something they decide to keep around, especially if Jordan Reed is cut, and Chris Thompson’s versatility is valuable, especially after an injury hit 2019 season should depress his value in free agency.
Major Need: Offensive Line
To put it simply the Redskins have a lot of holes. They ranked 29th in offensive DVOA and 30th when it comes to defense. The widely accepted assumption is that they will add Chase Young on the defensive line, which gives that unit a chance to be one of the best in the league. Therefore, the biggest need has to be on their offensive line given they have a young quarterback they are looking to develop. Their offensive line ranked in the bottom half of the NFL last season and if they can get some consistency through veteran additions then they can give the franchise a solid starting point to enter a new decade with.
Major Need: Cornerback
You look across this roster and the secondary stands out as a serious problem. Aaron Colvin is a solid corner but with the way Josh Norman has been playing he is almost the top option on the depth chart right now. The Redskins desperately need to boost the talent on the back end of their defense if they are to have an effective defensive line. No matter how much talent you have upfront, if your secondary cannot stay with receivers then quarterbacks will be able to pick your team apart. This free agency class has some good veteran options that could make an immediate impact and the draft class is supposedly one of the deepest we have seen recently.