Before Ron Rivera starts thinking about the outside free agents he wants to bring in, he will be focusing on "taking care of" the Washington players whose contracts are set to expire in March.
So, which Washington players have contracts that are set to expire in March?
The first one who comes to mind is Brandon Scherff. The All-Pro guard played 2020 on the franchise tag, and while Rivera and Co. could stick that designation on him again, it's far more likely he gets a long-term deal soon. Rivera just has to decide if he wants to be the one who gives Scherff that deal; his past comments indicate he will pay up.
After Scherff, Ronald Darby is the most vital person to re-sign. The corner didn't notch an interception in his first go-round with the Burgundy and Gold, but he did stay healthy for the entire campaign — something he didn't do in Philadelphia — and, for the most part, he was very dependable opposite of Kendall Fuller.
Darby came to Washington on a one-year agreement in order to re-establish his value, and he accomplished that goal in 2020. Now, the question becomes if he'll stay with the organization who gave him that shot or decide to resume his career elsewhere. The defense would be thin at the position if the latter outcome occurs.
Going any further in this story without mentioning Ryan Kerrigan would be unfair. The 32-year-old would like an opportunity to start, and since that opportunity won't be coming with the only pro team he's ever known, it appears probable that he'll be picked up by another club. He'll be back one day, though, when they put his name and number up in the stadium's Ring of Fame.
A pair of disappointing 2017 draft selections are set to hit free agency for the first time in Ryan Anderson and Fabian Moreau. Neither really found their footing once Rivera and Jack Del Rio took over, so a fresh start might be the best situation for the pass rusher and defensive back.
Anderson isn't the only linebacker with an unclear future. Kevin Pierre-Louis, Reuben Foster, Jared Norris and late-season signee Mychal Kendricks are all going to be available for the league to choose from in a month or so as well. Pierre-Louis could return, seeing as he's a valuable depth option, and Norris is an ex-Panther who contributes on specials. Foster, meanwhile, just didn't look healthy at all in training camp, which is why he spent 2020 on injured reserve.
Then there's Thomas Davis, who is retiring.
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Two longtime Football Teamers, Nick Sundberg and Dustin Hopkins, aren't under contract for 2021, meaning two-thirds of the specialist crew could be on the move.
Now, no one has been with Washington longer than Sundberg and no one is as consistent as him, so he's got to have more than solid odds of coming back. Hopkins, sadly, wasn't as consistent last season, yet Rivera supported him during his struggles. We'll see if that support continues in the form of more money in March.
Jeremy Sprinkle, reserve tackle David Sharpe and running back Lamar Miller round out the unrestricted free agents on Washington's ledger. Sprinkle was drafted along with Moreau and Anderson and doesn’t offer much of anything as a receiving tight end. Sharpe was acquired in a trade from Las Vegas last summer.
Lastly, corner/returner Danny Johnson and backup receiver Robert Foster are restricted free agents, and Kyle Allen and Cam Sims are exclusive rights free agents (Johnson and Foster have accrued three seasons in the NFL, while Allen and Sims have accrued less than that).
So, overall, Washington is fairly fortunate — the majority of their young and most important pieces will no doubt be back for Week 1 this fall. This list will be more loaded with crucial names down the road, but for now, Scherff and Darby are the only ones that seriously stand out.