Free Agents WFT Should Pursue After 2021 NFL Draft
The Washington Football Team didn't address the quarterback position early in the 2021 NFL draft, choosing instead to focus on players who can contribute to a potential playoff run this season. This means that Ryan Fitzpatrick is inked in as the starting quarterback but should have a strong supporting cast.
Washington nabbed linebacker Jamin Davis in Round 1, offensive tackle Sam Cosmi in Round 2 and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste in Round 3.
The Football Team may not have its long-term quarterback answer on the roster, but it should have a good chance to repeat as a postseason participant. Washington won the NFC East in 2020 and should again have its eyes on a division title.
Adding a few more pieces in post-draft free agency could go a long way toward that goal, and Washington has some cap space with which to work. According to Spotrac, the Football Team has an estimated $16.4 million in cap room with the top 51 player contracts considered.
"We're going to add through free agency, hopefully in the next week or so, as we start getting ready for OTAs," head coach Ron Rivera told The Team 980 Washington.
Let's take a look at three free agents Washington should target following the draft.
QB Nick Mullens
Between Fitzpatrick, playoff standout Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, the Football Team should have a fair amount of quarterback depth heading into the 2021 season. However, if Washington is interested in adding more starting experience to the room—or someone to push Fitzpatrick for the starting job—Nick Mullens would make a ton of sense.
Mullens started 16 games in three seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. While he was never a threat to replace a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo, he performed admirably in his occasional opportunities. The Southern Mississippi product threw for 25 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in San Francisco and had a passer rating of 87.2.
Fitzpatrick has been up-and-down throughout his starting career, which is why he's never settled in as a franchise signal-caller. Mullens would provide a fine piece of insurance while being a possible option to develop for the long term.
The 38-year-old Fitzpatrick is not the future in Washington. At just 26, Mullens could, at worst, challenge Heinicke and Allen to be the team's long-term backup.
LB K.J. Wright
While the Football Team boasted the league's second-ranked overall defense in 2020, the team was less impressive against the run. Washington ranked 13th in rushing yards allowed, which is still good but not elite.
Drafting Davis was a step in the right direction for Washington's run defense, but there's still room for improvement. Adding veteran linebacker K.J. Wright could help provide it.
While the longtime Seattle Seahawk is 31, he is still capable of playing at a high level. Last season, he started all 16 games while logging 86 total tackles, two sacks, 10 passes defended and an interception. Even the Seahawks are surprised that Wright isn't already under contract.
"Quite frankly, there's so many coaches that were on our staff that are at different places, we thought he would be signed by now," Seattle general manager Josh Schneider said, per Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.
Wright isn't under contract, though, and could provide Washington's already stellar defense with a boost at the second level.
CB Richard Sherman
If Washington is willing to swing for the fences on defense, it might as well consider cornerback Richard Sherman. The Football Team ranked second in passing yards allowed last season, but having too much talent and depth in the secondary isn't a thing.
While Sherman is 33 and missed 11 games last season, he was phenomenal as recently as 2019. He started 15 games and allowed an opposing passer rating of just 63.0 that season.
While it may seem like overkill to add a six-time Pro Bowler to an already strong position group, it's the sort of win-now move Washington should consider making.
The Football Team made the postseason in 2020 and should be eying a deeper run in 2021. Depth will be important—especially in the new 17-game format—and Sherman can provide it. He also has the sort of extensive playoff experience that most of Washington's roster lacks.
Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.