Football Team

Washington Pre-Free Agency Roster Grades: OL was a strength in 2020

Football Team

With the 2020 season in the books and free agency less than one month away, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux and Ryan Homler grade the Washington Football Team's position groups before the 2021 signing period begins. Next up: offensive line.

Offensive lineman signed: Morgan Moses, Chase Roullier, Wes Schweitzer, Cornelius Lucas, Geron Christian, Saahdiq Charles, Keith Ismael, Wes Martin, David Steinmetz

Offensive lineman hitting free agency: Brandon Scherff, David Sharpe

2020 recap

Entering the 2020 season, the offensive line of the Washington Football Team had a lot more questions than answers.

Right guard Brandon Scherff, the team's best offensive lineman, had missed nearly half of the past two seasons due to injury. Right tackle and team captain Morgan Moses was coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. The left guard spot had a void to fill following Ereck Flowers' departure to Miami. And, of course, left tackle had the biggest question mark of them all as Washington entered its second season without now eight-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams.

Yet, like many aspects of the Washington Football Team in 2020, the success of the offensive line came as a pleasant surprise.

Let's start on the right side of the line with Scherff and Moses, the two longest-tenured members of the unit.

After missing three games following a Week 2 injury, Scherff returned to the lineup and played the best football of his career. His efforts earned him a spot on the AP's first-team All-Pro squad, becoming the first Washington player to earn such an honor since punter Matt Turk did in 1996. And for Moses, who had plenty of fans calling for his job following a penalty-riddled 2019 campaign, he bounced back by turning in arguably the best year of his seven-year career.

 

Calling the shots for the unit was center Chase Roullier, who turned into one of the league's best at his position and was rewarded with a four-year extension in December. 

On the left side of the offensive line, free agent signing Wes Schweitzer started 13 games for the Burgundy and Gold and held up quite well. At left tackle, Geron Christian showed flashes before an injury sidelined him, but veteran Cornelius Lucas played some great football in Christian's absence.

As a whole, Washington's offensive line turned in a solid season in 2020. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked the group as the NFL's sixth-best offensive line in 2020, a massive jump from their pre-season rank of 29th.

Download and subscribe to the Washington Football Talk podcast

Trade/Free Agency options

Washington's most important need ahead of free agency -- besides maybe trading for a quarterback -- is finding a way to sign Scherff to a long-term extension.

Scherff played the 2020 season on the franchise tag, something that made sense for both sides considering the guard's recent injury history. However, after putting together his best campaign as a professional and making first-team All-Pro, Scherff now holds plenty of leverage in any negotiation.

Washington has the option to franchise tag Scherff once again, which would pay the guard $18 million in 2021. However, Ron Rivera's club is reportedly motivated to sign Scherff to a long-term deal before free agency, as tagging the former first-round pick is not really a feasible option due to the league's current cap situation.

Besides Scherff, Washington has almost its entire offensive line returning in 2021. Tackle David Sharpe is the only other offensive lineman set to hit free agency from last year's roster.

Despite some flashes from Lucas and Christian last season, it's likely Washington wants more long-term stability or short-term upside at left tackle or both. The team has started a handful of players at the position following Williams' departure and none of them have come close to replicating his production. Then again, Williams is one of the best left tackles in the sport. Few across the league have been as good as him over the past decade.

In free agency, former Panthers left tackle Russell Okung could be an option at the position. Veteran Alejandro Villanueva could be another potential candidate as well.

 

However, it would make more sense for Washington to address the position in the draft, as the 2021 class is loaded at the position. ESPN's Mel Kiper has Washington selecting Virginia Tech LT Christian Darrisaw 19th overall in his latest mock. That would be a great pick for Washington, should it happen.

Pre-Free Agency OL Grade

Washington's offensive line pre-free agency grade largely has to do with Scherff's status. If we're counting the guard in the group for this exercise, Washington's offensive line earns a B+ grade. However, without counting Scherff, this group quickly drops to a C grade

The offensive line is one of Washington's stronger position groups. But, like every unit on the team (even defensive line), there's plenty of room for improvement.