Football Team

How has Washington's 2020 free agent class performed so far?

Football Team

It's no secret that Ron Rivera came out swinging in first free agency as the head coach of the Washington Football Team.

But, after failing to land some of the big names such as Amari Cooper and James Bradberry, Rivera's club shifted its approach. Outside of inking Kendall Fuller to a four-year, $40 million deal, Washington signed a bunch of versatile players that came with plenty of potential to short-term deals.

“I think, first of all, it’s part of the formula that we did with intent," Rivera said Monday. "We did go after a couple of big names, to be honest with you. But, the other guys that we looked at our guys that you sit there and say: ‘Man, these guys are ready to have these kinds of years.'"

Over the first 11 games of the season, Rivera and his staff have seen plenty of production from multiple members of their 2020 free-agent class. Most have turned into solid contributors, while a few are even having career years.

So, with the season entering its final month, let's grade each one of Washington's 2020 free agent signings.

CB Kendall Fuller

Grade: A Contract: four years, $40 million

After spending two seasons playing multiple positions in Kansas City's secondary, the DMV native returned to Washington and is having a career season for the Burgundy and Gold.

Fuller's four interceptions are currently tied for the third-most in the NFL, despite missing Washington's first two games due to injury. He's also emerged as the leader of the secondary, especially with Landon Collins out for the season.

 

Fuller was Washington's most expensive free agent in 2020. But so far, his signing looks like a bargain.

CB Ronald Darby

Grade: A- Contract: one-year, $4 million

The arrival of Fuller in Washington has perhaps taken some shine off of Ronald Darby, who is having one of the best seasons of his career so far.

Darby, who missed 20 games over the past three years with the Eagles, has started every game for Washington and shown flashes of the lockdown cornerback he used to be in Buffalo. Although he has yet to haul in an interception, he's been extremely solid both in pass coverage and against the run.

Darby's efforts are reflected by advanced analytics, too. He is currently ranked the 12th best cornerback out of 125 qualified, according to Pro Football Focus, eight spots ahead of Fuller, too. 

Cornerback had been an issue for Washington over the past few years, but Fuller and Darby have stepped up nicely for the Washington Football Team this season.

RB J.D. McKissic

Grade: B+ Contract: two years, $3.3 million

A wide-receiver-turned-running-back who never really had a home prior to Washington, J.D. McKissic is enjoying a breakout season in 2020.

McKissic has thrived as a pass-catcher out of the backfield and has really come into his own the second half of the season. The 27-year-old has already surpassed career-highs in rushing yards, receptions and receiving yards, and there are still five games to play.

"J.D. McKissic was somebody that we felt we could come in and be a part of what we’re doing," Rivera said Monday.

Outside of Terry McLaurin and maybe rookie Antonio Gibson, McKissic is by far Washington's most dangerous weapon on offense. He's been an excellent find for Washington.

RB Peyton Barber

Grade: C Contract: two years, $3 million

Peyton Barber doesn't have a big role in the Washington offense, but that's not totally his fault.

Since both Gibson and McKissic are having excellent seasons and are a bit more dynamic with the ball in their hands, Barber has really only seen the field on short-yardage situations and when Washington has the lead.

When Washington signed Barber in March, there was a good chance he didn't make the roster. But then, when Washington cut Derrius Guice in August and Adrian Peterson in September, a role opened for Barber, and he's taken advantage of it. Nothing great, but a solid player nonetheless.

TE Logan Thomas

Grade: B- Contract: two years, $6.1 million

Entering the 2020 season, perhaps no position group was in more need of help for Washington than tight end. The group still has its question marks, but the ascension of Thomas in 2020 at least shows Washington has one tight end they can truly trust.

 

Thomas, who played quarterback collegiately at Virginia Tech, has only played the tight end position for four seasons. This year was Thomas's first chance to start at the position in the NFL, and he's already notched career marks in almost every major receiving category.

"Logan Thomas is somebody that you felt really good about," Rivera said Monday. "I know [tight ends coach] Pete Hoener really liked him off of his tape and just thought this guy was ready to ascend."

As it stands now, Thomas leads Washington in touchdown receptions (four) and is third on the team in receptions (36) and receiving yards (338).

Thomas may not be the No. 1 tight end for Washington for years to come, but he's been a welcome addition to a team that desperately needed help at the position.

LB Kevin Pierre-Louis

Grade: B- Contract: one year, $3 million

After spending the first six years of his career as a backup linebacker for four different teams, Kevin Pierre-Louis was given his first chance to start at the position this year in Washington.

Known for his sideline-to-sideline speed, Pierre-Louis has been solid for Washington and is currently third on the team in tackles.

Pierre-Louis has struggled in run defense and as a pass rusher, but his 81.3 coverage grade, per Pro Football Focus, is among the top 10 at his position. 

"Kevin Pierre-Louis is a guy that we felt could come in and help as well," Rivera said Monday.

The linebacker has seen a drop in playing time recently, and both Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have criticized the linebacker unit as of late. But, KPL has shown promise throughout this season, enough that he could be part of the defense going forward.

LB Thomas Davis

Grade: D Contract: one year, $3.5 million

A three-time Pro Bowler and a 2015 All-Pro selection, the addition of Thomas Davis -- who played under Rivera for eight years in Carolina -- has undoubtedly been great in terms of trying to turn the culture around in Ashburn.

On the field, though, Davis has not contributed much of anything. Sure, you could point to Davis age, 37, and say that for a young team like Washington, they would be better served to give their younger linebackers the game reps.

However, Davis totaled 112 tackles for the Chargers just one season ago. He signed with Washington in part to reunite with his old coach, but his 2019 effort proved he still has some football left in the tank.

For whatever reason, Washington really hasn't given him that chance to prove himself once again.

OT Cornelius Lucas

Grade: B- Contract: two years, $5.3 million

 

The beginning of Cornelius Lucas' tenure in Washington did not get off to a strong start, as the tackle struggled in camp and eventually lost the left tackle battle to Geron Christian, a third-year pro who hadn't impressed much over his first two seasons.

However, in his two spot starts for Christian, Lucas has shined. Over that span, Lucas completely protected the quarterback's blind side, not allowing a sack, pressure, QB hit, or even a hurry.

Unfortunately for Washington, though, Lucas has missed the team's last two games with a knee injury, one that has forced right tackle Morgan Moses to the left side. Just when Lucas was starting to perform, he was sidelined with a multi-week injury.

Lucas likely won't ever be a weekly starter along Washington's offensive line, but his efforts this season have proved he's a quality backup who can play both tackle positions.

OG Wes Schweitzer

Grade: B+ Contract: three years, $13.5 million

Since Week 3, Schweitzer has taken over as Washington's starting left guard. For the most part, he's played extremely well.

Part of the intrigue in Schweitzer was his positional versatility, as he's played all three interior offensive line positions over his four-year NFL career.

Although he's played almost exclusively left guard for Washington, he's been a major upgrade over Wes Martin, the team's Week 1 and 2 starter at the position. Schweitzer has arguably been just as good as Ereck Flowers was last season, a player who Washington let walk in free agency and would sign a deal in Jacksonville for double Schweitzer's salary.

Schweitzer's Pro Football Focus grade of 71.3 is good for the 17th best at the position in the league.

S Sean Davis

Grade: F Contract: one year, $5 million

Sean Davis was supposed to be the perfect fit opposite Landon Collins at the safety position, as his speed and range would complement Collins' strengths well.

It didn't work out at all, and the two never haven't played a single snap together.

Davis spent most of training camp taking snaps behind Troy Apke, and was eventually released during final roster cuts. Releasing Davis cost Washington a $2 million hit, meaning the team really didn't see a role for him in 2020.

What looked promising on paper never came to fruition on the field. Davis has since rejoined the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he spent his first four seasons.

Note: Free agent signings Richard Rodgers, Cody Latimer and Jeremy Vujnovich were not included. Rodgers and Vujnovich were released during final roster cuts, while Latimer was released this summer after being placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List.