WFT's Early Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason DecisionsMarch 22, 2021
WFT's Early Report Card for Most Impactful Offseason Decisions
The Washington Football Team didn't have a winning season in 2021, but they did manage to take the NFC East, host a playoff game and put forth a respectable showing against the Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Therefore, the 2021 offseason has been more about building up the roster than rebuilding, with a few exceptions. Martin Mayhew was hired as general manager, and veteran quarterback Alex Smith was released. However, many of the pieces that were in place this past season remain there.
This doesn't mean that Washington hasn't made some difficult and impactful decisions to alter the landscape.
Here we will take a look at some of the biggest decisions the Football Team has made this offseason and grade them based on factors like team needs, potential short- and long-term impacts and salary-cap implications.
The Football Team appears to have its long-term coaching answer in place with Ron Rivera. He helped change the culture this past season, making Washington both a tough team to handle and a playoff participant. The Football Team added to an impressive front office by hiring Mayhew away from the San Francisco 49ers.
Mayhew spent the past two seasons as San Francisco's vice president of player personnel. Before that, he was the 49ers' senior personnel executive. He helped construct a 49ers roster that appeared in the Super Bowl in February 2020.
His executive experience doesn't end with San Francisco. He has also served as the New York Giants' director of football operations and as the Detroit Lions general manager.
By pairing Mayhew with Rivera, Washington has given itself one of the more experienced front offices in the league, a duo that has already made some strong offseason moves. It was a great decision by Washington and one that should pay long-term dividends.
Tagging Brandon Scherff
One of Mayhew's first big decisions involved offensive guard Brandon Scherff. Washington was unwilling to let the perennial Pro Bowler walk, so it applied the franchise tag for the second consecutive year. It was a shrewd move that helped ensure that one of the league's best lineman would remain in the fold.
Scherff is a four-time Pro Bowler who was named a first-team All-Pro in 2020.
However, tagging Scherff came at a great cost. If he plays on the tag, it will cost Washington more than $18 million in 2021. This is a significant sum, even for a player of Scherff's caliber.
The good news is that the tag could lead to a long-term extension. The guard moved quickly to sign his franchise tender, so at the very least, it won't lead to a holdout.
The cost of using the tag cannot be ignored, as Washington has less than $4 million in cap space. However, retaining a key cog like Scherff was the right move for this budding franchise.
Adding Ryan Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel
The Football Team have taken steps to improve their passing attack, which isn't surprising. While Washington boasted a tremendous defense in 2020, it ranked just 25th in passing and 30th in total offense. Smith's departure also meant that the Football Team needed a new signal-caller.
The team tabbed journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for the job in 2021, which was a tremendous move given the other options out there. Fitzpatrick was a solid starter last season, producing a 95.6 quarterback rating and helping the Miami Dolphins achieve a 10-win season.
Fitzpatrick's contract—a one-year, $10 million deal—is also smart. It provides Washington with the flexibility to move on if it is able to find a long-term answer at quarterback via the draft or in Taylor Heinicke.
Washington further addressed its passing offense by signing runner/receiver Curtis Samuel to a three-year, $34.5 million deal. That's a fairly high price tag but not an outright overpay for a versatile playmaker who topped 1,000 scrimmage yards in 2020.
Samuel also has experience working with Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner, as all three were previously together with the Carolina Panthers.
Contract and cap information via Spotrac.