Ron Rivera did enough to get by in Year 1 with the Washington Football Team. A 7-9 record isn't one to boast about, but when it gives the team their first division title in five years, it offers traction.
Want more traction in 2021? Plunge into NFL free agency and grab Curtis Samuel.
Washington enters the offseason as a top-five team in cap space with roughly $54 million. As the NFC East remains in a weird limbo of contenders and pretenders, any move to keep WFT ahead will be considered a good one.
A quarterback can only get better with standout weapons. Terry McLaurin is now the No. 1 for coordinator Scott Turner's offense. One season isn't enough to consider him a top 10 receiver in the league, but McLaurin's 1,118-yard season proves he is the go-to target in D.C.
Washington needs to add a partner for the third-year receiver. They also need speed for either the outside or in the slot, thus adding an extra element to the passing attack.
Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew could do both. It starts by adding Carolina's Samuel.
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Players, general managers and coaches who have worked together in the past will always keep that connection. Samuel fits the bill with Rivera, Turner and WFT executive Marty Hurney, who drafted him out of Ohio State 40th overall in 2017.
In his first three years with Rivera, Samuel tallied 108 total catches for 1,236 yards and 11 touchdowns. That production increased when Turner became the team's quarterback coach in 2018 and implemented more ways to use for the former Buckeye.
This was a trait 2020 Panthers coordinator Joe Brady kept in the playbook.
Samuel thrived in a contract season, recording a career-best in receptions (77), yards (851), first downs (39) and yards per target (8.8). The offense also catered to his speed and agility in the run game, allowing him to tally 41 rushes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
Washington, meanwhile, struggled to produce downfield. They finished 27th last season in big plays of 20-plus yards or more with 31 strikes. McLaurin, who surpassed No. 2 receiver Cam Sims by near 700 receiving yards, recorded 17 of them.
Many have pegged Washington to draft Florida's Kadarius Toney at No. 19 in April's Draft. There's no telling if the former Gator will thrive at the next level. It's possible ... but Samuel is already proven to be used in a similar style that made Toney a first-round prospect.
Samuel has no set role - in the sense of limitations - in an offense. While most of his receptions can come in the slot, that doesn't just make him a primary slot target. Instead, Samuel can win as a runner, on quick slants or as a vertical threat.
Last season, he tallied 12 plays of 20-plus yards, three more than Sims.
Sportrac predicts Samuel's value as an average salary of $12.5 million. That's roughly $4-$7 million less than the expected asking price of the other top names on the market. WFT could add Samuel, focus on drafting their quarterback protection early, then add a receiver in the later rounds with better size. (Oh, and find a QB.)
If they work? Great. If Sims returns or second-year target Antonio Gandy-Golden develops? Even better.
A nightmare to tackle in space, plus a relatively affordable option in free agency, the addition of Samuel is not only a value target, but also one with a proven track record and upside, too.
Coaches try to implement their old systems in a new location and sometimes it backfires. This isn't one of those times with Samuel. He'd be new to Washington ... but ready for the sort of success he's become used to - and offering the sort of success WFT needs.
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