Ever since Ron Rivera took over as the Redskins head coach in early January, he has preached finding the core players on the roster in order to turn the culture around. But if the first wave of free agency proved one thing, it's that it takes a lot more than just a shakeup in the front office and a new head coach to change a culture.
Rivera inherited an offense that played multiple rookies a season ago. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin has already established himself as a stud, while both Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon have shown promise. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had his growing pains in 2019 but started to finally put things together as the season concluded.
But as a whole, the Redskins offense from a year ago was really bad. They averaged just 16.6 points per game, dead last in the NFL. Only the New York Jets averaged fewer yards per game than the Burgundy and Gold.
The Redskins knew that entering free agency, the team would need to add difference-makers on offense. Someone who could help Haskins grow as a passer, but also change the entire dynamic of the offense. They tried twice, but swung and missed both times, and didn't appear to have much of a backup plan, which is why they earn a D grade on their offensive free agency report card.
On the first day of the legal tampering period, the Redskins attempted to pry away Amari Cooper from their rival Dallas Cowboys. Cooper, the best free agent wideout on the market, would have been an excellent fit in the Redskins offense. He's just 25 years old, an excellent route runner, and a go-to target for a young quarterback to look for. With McLaurin opposite him, the duo would have made a dangerous tandem on the outside.
In their first free agency together, Rivera and Redskins Senior VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith offered the four-time Pro Bowler a massive contract with even more money than the one Dallas put forward. They were ready to make a franchise-altering investment in Cooper and have him be the crown jewel of their first free agency class. But Cooper decided to stay put and signed a five-year deal with the Cowboys, citing the ability to contend for a championship right away.
After missing on Cooper, the Redskins didn't pursue any of the next tier free agent receivers, such as Emmanuel Sanders or Robby Anderson. Instead, the lone wideout Washington has signed in free agency is Cody Latimer. A former second-round pick, Latimer has never turned in a season with more than 25 catches or 300 yards. Sure, it's a low-risk signing, but nowhere near a game-changer the Redskins desperately need.
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Entering free agency, tight end was the position the Redskins arguably needed to upgrade the most; having a solid player at the position is crucial for a young, developing quarterback like Haskins. Washington released the oft-injured Jordan Reed this offseason and Vernon Davis retired, leaving a gaping hole at the position.
The Redskins were expected to be major players for Austin Hooper, the top tight end available. But the former Falcon agreed to a four-year deal with the Cleveland Browns just minutes after players could start negotiating with teams. A few days after signing with Cleveland, Hooper told SiriusXM that he was between the Browns and the Redskins and felt Cleveland offered a better chance to win.
After missing out on Hooper, the Redskins went shopping at the bargain bin once again, signing tight ends Logan Thomas and Richard Rodgers each to a one-year deal. Over the past four seasons, Rodgers has a total of 43 catches for 438 yards. He's had multiple injuries, too, playing in just eight total games since 2017. Thomas is a converted quarterback-turned-tight-end who had a career-high 16 receptions a season ago.
The team has also added two running backs, J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber, to compete with Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and maybe Bryce Love.
Once again, these are all low-risk signings. Not a ton is expected from any of them, and almost any above-average production can be seen as a bonus. But for a team that desperately needed to find another game-changer on offense, none of these players have proven to be that guy yet in the pros.
The Redskins aren't going to contend for a Super Bowl in 2020, and Rivera knows that. Rebuilds take time, and Rivera has more than earned the respect to design Washington's rebuild the way he wants.
But the head coach has preached finding guys who he believes will be core players for years to come. And after missing out on two of the teams top targets -- Cooper and Hooper -- the Redskins have likely not signed anyone on the offensive side of the ball that fits that category.
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