ASHBURN, Va. — From the time the Washington Redskins drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins, they said the best way to help was this: Add more players around him. Even with a regime change, that quest won’t end. When Ron Rivera met with owner Dan Snyder before taking the head-coaching job, a good chunk of his time was spent pitching his plan to develop Haskins.
It includes adding more help at the skill positions.
The Redskins’ desire to bolster the offense will be impacted by their decisions regarding key veterans at the skill positions: running back Adrian Peterson, receiver Paul Richardson and tight end Jordan Reed.
“We’re going to try and get as much talent as we can on offense,” Redskins offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. “You look at that in different ways, obviously what is on the roster currently, but then we will look in free agency and we’ll look in the draft. We’re open to all of that.”
The Redskins have until 22 days before the start of the new league year (March 18) to decide if they want to pick up the second year of Peterson’s contract. One source said it was likely the Redskins would do so, but nothing is guaranteed. His salary-cap hit would be $3.1 million; the Redskins would save $2.4 million if they opted not to pick it up. There’s a reason they would want Peterson around because in the past two seasons he has been one of their most durable players. The one game he missed came when then-coach Jay Gruden made him a healthy inactive.
Running backs coach Randy Jordan, the lone holdover from the previous offensive staff, loves Derrius Guice‘s talent. One reason Jordan wanted to return was to see Guice realize his potential. But Guice’s physical running style has led some to worry that he won’t stay healthy — he’s already had three knee injuries in two seasons with Washington. He has never carried the ball more than 10 times in an NFL game, but he was a workhorse in his final season at LSU.
Veteran third-down back Chris Thompson is a pending free agent. Washington also drafted Bryce Love in the fourth round last season knowing he might not play until 2020 because of a torn ACL. Love could be a wild card here; if he’s healthy he could become, at minimum, the Redskins’ third-down back. When drafted, the Redskins felt he was capable of being an every-down back.
If Richardson is on the roster once the fifth day of the league year hits, then $2 million of his $6 million 2020 base salary becomes guaranteed. That means if he’s cut after that date — with $6 million of combined prorated bonus money — he would count $8 million against the cap instead of $6 million. One source familiar with Rivera’s plans says the coach wants to add another starting receiver, likely a veteran. The veteran would play opposite Terry McLaurin, who established himself as a productive big-play receiver in his rookie season in 2019. He averaged 15.84 yards per catch, seventh best among receivers with at least 50 receptions last season.
If that’s what Rivera truly wants, they are likely to move on from Richardson. The Redskins can point to his durability as a primary issue. Richardson has missed a combined 15 games in two seasons with Washington, and in six seasons, he has played in 10 games or fewer three times. If the Redskins don’t view him as a starter, it’s hard to pay him a $6 million base salary to be a backup who doesn’t play on special teams. Used properly, Richardson can still help a team.
It’s not a deep free-agent receiving class as of now, so Rivera’s wish might be hard to grant. He does like the Redskins’ young receivers — Steven Sims showed an ability to make plays in the slot. Kelvin Harmon would be a strong backup if nothing else; he plays physical, blocks and can help on special teams.
The Redskins still have Reed on their roster, but it’s hard to imagine him sticking around. He missed all of last season with his seventh documented concussion. He hasn’t played more than 13 games in a season since 2015 and, with a cap hit of $10.3 million, the math doesn’t add up for a return. The Redskins could save $8.5 million if they release him. Then there’s the question about Reed’s desire to keep playing. During the season, some of Reed’s teammates said they expected him to continue, but that isn’t a certainty. His talent has never been an issue, unlike his availability.
With Vernon Davis retired — he was a pending free agent anyway and unlikely to return — the Redskins need more here. They have three other tight ends on the roster, including Jeremy Sprinkle, but none are receiving threats. That’s why they have interest in Greg Olsen, who played nine seasons under Rivera in Carolina. Olsen would be a reliable target, but he turns 35 in March. So Washington needs depth even if it signs Olsen, who is being courted by contenders Buffalo and Seattle and could have even more suitors.
Washington could pursue top free agents; Austin Hooper and Hunter Henry will be the most sought after by any team needing tight end help. If the Redskins want to spend elsewhere, they could turn to the draft. While it’s not considered a good draft for tight ends, there are some options in the middle rounds who could pair nicely with a veteran such as Olsen.
“The tight end is very important to our offense,” Turner said.