The Washington Football Team made significant moves in Year 1 of the Ron Rivera era. Everything changed, including the winning style of play. While they finished under .500, it was enough to win the NFC East for the first time since 2015.
Coach Rivera now has his model running in D.C. His style has corrected the wrongs, and the plan will be to build off the success from last season. The good news? It's easier said for WFT than most as they have approximately $54 million in cap space.
A "To Do" list should allow Rivera, exec Marty Hurney and new general manager Martin Mayhew to focus in on the biggest needs of the offseason. A simple five-step plan could be the difference between a rocky start to 2021 or a chance to contend for Super Bowl LVI.
Our five "to-do's'' ...
1) Pay your own before free agency
Washington doesn't need to keep every free agent, but losing Brandon Scherff and Ronald Darby shouldn't be an option. Both are key players to positions that aren't easily replaceable.
The Pro Bowl guard Scherff is expected to have a deal ranging around $15.5 million a season. Darby, who played in 2020 on a one-year, $4 million deal, could at least be worth double that for a multi-year plan.
Scherff has earned the right to be the highest-paid player at his position. Who knows if the run game would have been established without him?
Darby, meanwhile, took a prove-it deal and mostly shined in coverage.
The WFT brass needs to keep both players in D.C. before opening the checkbook to anyone on the outside.
2) Decide on a receiver style in free agency
Everyone knows Washington will be interested in a receiver, but the skillset matters as much as the player. Cam Sims could build off his big-play potential in 2021 while fourth-round rookie Antonio Gandy-Golden is hoping to bounce back.
Still, what will WFT add: size or speed?
If they target size, Kenny Golladay and Allen Robinson will be at the top of the list. For a cheaper option. Corey Davis would suffice on the outside. If targeting speed, Curtis Samuel has multiple ties to the team and showed his breakout potential with Rivera in 2018 and 2019.
Whichever receiver type WFT doesn't target in free agency, they'll need to target in the draft. Terry McLaurin certainly needs a running mate, but two is better than one.
3) Have a QB plan before the draft
Washington needs a quarterback. Taylor Heinicke is under contract, but that doesn't mean he should be the immediate starter.
Washington once was interested in trading for Marcus Mariota from the Raiders, but the talks have cooled. Las Vegas might be forced to release the former No. 2 pick, but would he expect a similar deal to start in Landover?
The same could be said for Jameis Winston, who impressed in very little playing time for the Saints in 2020.
There's other names that could also be available. Mitchell Trubisky or Cam Newton in free agency? Sam Darnold or Teddy Bridgewater by trade? A bus driver like Andy Dalton?
Either way, whatever Washington's plan is must be established before NFL Draft night.
4) Restructure Landon Collins deal
Even in an organization known for giving out lucrative deals in the past, Landon Collins' six-year, $84 million was bloated. The WFT is entering Year 3 of the tenure and following a torn Achilles, that's scary since he's struggled and has a contract that calls for a total of $44 million in guarantees with over $30 million fully guaranteed.
Keeping rookie Kam Curl off the field isn't an option after the success he had filling in for Collins and even before. With his skills better suited at the line of scrimmage, we've suggested the 27-year-old Collins potentially move positions.
Additionally, should the team restructure his deal, it could secure more cap space that could help the team thrive.
Collins isn't owed any more guaranteed money after 2021. Like it or not, he'll probably be on the roster this season. If he isn't willing to renegotiate, he'll need to prove why he's worth another $30 million over three years.
5) Take "your guy" at No.v19
If Washington feels comfortable enough with their roster to swing for a quarterback, trade up and never look back. If not, the team needs to stay put and draft what they feel is "their guy" at No. 19 in April.
The class is loaded at wide receiver, but many believe Florida's Kadarius Toney is an ideal selection. Should WFT add a perimeter player in free agency, grabbing the former Gator isn't the worst idea.
The same could be said on the offensive line. Should Washington's offseason plans fail to bring in a left tackle, Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw could be the long-term replacement for Trent Williams on the blindside.
Defensively, WFT needs a cover linebacker and a big nickel for Jack Del Rio's system. Earlier this month, we suggested they could have both with Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as a perfect blend of both for his early career.
Washington has options at No. 19. They might not need to move around from there to "hit.'' But they do need the right guy to hit early for the draft class to be another stellar one.
And, in summary, if WFT "hits'' on all five of these "to-do''? True contention is within reach.
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