Former Skins team president Bruce Allen left quite a mess behind him in Washington. New head coach Ron Rivera has only just begun the clean-up process, with the real work still to come.
The team released two of the most obvious cap casualties in the NFL late last week, jettisoning struggling corner Josh Norman, long at odds with the club, and speedy-but-ineffective receiver Paul Richardson, two of Allen's flashier acquisitions. It cleared more cap space, for sure, and qualified as no-brainer moves, but the process can't come close to stopping there and there are a bevy of players who were championed and protected by the previous regime who also must go.
Allen managed to create a roster that was brutally flawed, at nearly every position group, casting a preponderance of assets at the front seven and managing to alienate and clash with many of the more talented players in the organization. The environment was toxic, and while Rivera's demeanor and personality and resume all will work in his favor, you can understand why some players, like emerging young corner Quentin Dunbar, want out, regardless, and why star left tackle Trent Williams sat out essentially all of last season rather than play another game for Allen/owner Dan Snyder.
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With the scouting combine now just a week away, this franchise had better reach a collective understanding about who it really is at this transition and what it will take to ever get out of the two-decade-long death spiral it has been in under Snyder. There are no quick fixes, and, in fact, more of a purge is truly in order to finally try to build a team capable of competing. This group needs to arrive in Indianapolis with a cogent plan for which pieces are a part of the future and which are not, beginning with Williams.
Here is what I would prescribe:
- If they can't get Williams to agree to an extension by Friday, inform him his trade request is being honored. Grant his agent permission to seek a new contract with any interested teams as part of the trade discussions. They should be able to land at least two second-round picks for him given what Laremy Tunsil fetched from the Texans.
- Be prepared to start over at running back. You can find them all over the draft. Adrian Peterson's time has come and gone. Don't pick up the option and if you can find a taker for Derrius Guice, move him too. The constant run of injuries portends more of the same moving forward. Oh yeah, and ditto for linebacker Rueben Foster, whom Allen claimed off waivers at a time when he was still under criminal investigation. Time to move on there.
- Give Jordan Reed a press conference and make a significant donation to the Concussion Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh in his name. Whether or not Reed chooses to play football again, and I suspect he will not given all the head trauma he has already experienced, is up to him, but the Skins will be starting all over at the tight end position. Perhaps Reed wants to join the coaching staff? I'd reach out about that as well. Do this the right way. All class.
- Put the franchise tag on Brandon Scherff. Guards can play deep into their 30s and you need some foundational piece on an offensive line that, like the running back and receiver and tight end position, needs to be totally rebuilt. Yeah, it really is that bad, and you need as many picks as possible, which leads me to …
- Trade Dunbar. Yeah he is one of few recent success stories, going from undrafted to impact player, but it's time to clean house with the Skins again starting over, an extension isn't in the cards, and now is the time to move on.
- Trade either Ryan Kerrigan or Ryan Anderson. Kerrigan's play tailed off a year ago and while he has been the face of the franchise, if you can move that $12M and get him to a winning team, do so. Anderson started to show real flashes when he got to start some late in the season, but the recent second-round pick hasn't seen enough of the field and he's in his walk year. If the Skins are drafting edge rusher Chase Young second overall, all the more reason to move one of these two.
- Of course, I would be auctioning off the second overall pick as well. Let someone jump up to take Tua at two and collect a ransom of draft picks for it. There are so many holes here, and Young won't fill them all even if he is a generational pass rusher. This needs to be about quantity and quality in Washington.
- And finally, as much as Snyder has become close with him, and for all that he has overcome to reach this point after suffering a potentially life-threatening leg injury in 2018, the Skins have to be prepared to move on from Alex Smith in 2021. The odds of him ever playing again remain remote, and if he is going to remain in a front office or coaching capacity, all parties need to be on the same page about it.
If done correctly, 2020 is a time to hit reset, collect potentially impactful long-term assets and get younger, healthier, more dynamic and faster on the fly. Rivera has a steep shore ahead of him in trying to turn this franchise around, and Allen has done him no favors with the wreckage left behind. Accept it for the task that it is and complete the necessary teardown before fooling yourself about the rebuild.
Vikings to be in combine spotlight
The Vikings will be getting a lot of attention at the combine next week. They have a terrible cap situation, their coach and GM are perceived by the peers to be on the hot seat and it's going to be impossible for Minnesota to keep this roster together in 2020.
Teams will be sniffing around for trades, sensing some blood in the water, and it will go way beyond just receiver Stefon Diggs, the most talked about trade candidate. All of the extensions and huge contacts handed out the last three years have caught up to this franchise, and there is no easy way out. Cutting Xavier Rhodes is a no brainer, and tight end Kyle Rudolph can maybe get you back a mid-round pick in return, but that still doesn't create enough wiggle room to upgrade of note anywhere else.
The secondary needs to be almost entirely rebuilt, and Everson Griffin opting out of his deal is highly anticipated, which takes a big bite out of the pass rush. Linval Joseph's $12M salary might make him trade bait, too, meantime the offensive line remains a significant issue still after years of trying to fix it.
I'm not a huge believer in windows closing in the NFL, but with Kirk Cousins in the final year of his deal, this is an obvious example of one slamming shut. A purge of one degree or another is inevitable.
Draft order of QBs already set
The amount of smoke screens and, generally, BS that is going to come out about this first-round class of QBs and who wants them or doesn't want them might set some sort of unofficial record. In the end, barring injury, nothing will change the fact that two of them around going in the first five picks and three in the first half of the first round, and we already know the order: Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. All of the faux stories and fake intrigue won't change that reality. And the Bengals are taking Burrow as they stay at 1 and Tua is not getting past the Dolphins at 5 and the Chargers and Raiders are going to do a ton of work on this QB class and someone will fall in love with Herbert. It is what it is.
Grigson narrative over the top
It's become easy to knock former Colts GM Ryan Grigson in recent years, and plenty of people have, but as he recently returned to Cleveland as a member of rookie GM Andrew Berry's staff, it's worth noting some of his many accomplishments as well. In Grigson's 26 years in football, he's been a part of 18 winning seasons and eight division championships. During his time with the Colts (2012-2016) they were one of six teams without a losing season, and his 49-31 record was sixth-best in the NFL during that time. He inherited a 2-14 team as a rookie GM, and, yes Andrew Luck helped a lot, sure, but, sometimes narratives can get a little over the top. Grigson was well respected during the past two seasons as a senior consultant to GM John Schneider, and his experience and history with Berry made him very attractive to the new regime in Cleveland, which is trying to end the constant futility there under current ownership. Tough task for sure.