Josh Norman and Paul Richardson were two pieces the Redskins brought in on hefty five-year deals, but now both are gone without seeing those deals reach their respective conclusions. Washington released Norman and then Richardson on Friday, ending each player's disappointing time with the franchise.
Those disappointing times contain a pair of lessons for the Burgundy and Gold, too.
When the Redskins signed Norman in 2016, he was coming off of a spectacular season with the Panthers. The DB picked off four passes, forced three fumbles and scored two touchdowns for Carolina, and when they surprisingly let him go, Bruce Allen pounced.
Norman would never match that level of production again, though, and by the end of 2019, he was ceding time to guys even the most hardcore fans had never heard of. He deserves blame for that drop-off, too, as he was the one who dropped plenty of interceptable passes and who started getting burnt by lesser opponents on a fairly regular basis.
But the Redskins are at fault as well, and this is where the first lesson can be learned.
It never felt like the defense was prepared to get the most out of Norman's skills, forcing him to line up in man coverage when that wasn't his strength. No. 24 was at his best when he could sit in a zone and use his instincts, not when he had to rely on his mediocre speed in one-on-one matchups.
For some reason, the team made an enormous investment in Norman, then largely refused to shape their schemes around that investment. He's absolutely culpable in what will ultimately go down as a failed tenure, but so are the coordinators and position coaches who chose not to adjust.
The Richardson signing, meanwhile, was the right idea, at least on the surface. He was coming off of his best year as a pro when Washington acquired him in 2018, and the expectation was he'd take the next step once he was a part of an offense that featured him more.
They overlooked Richardson's significant injury history, however, which forced him to land on injured reserve twice and prevented him from ever becoming a consistent target. Therein lies the second lesson.
Richardson is just one example of how the Redskins have lately put too much stock in players with injury issues. In the past couple of seasons alone, they've seen their competitive hopes dashed thanks to the losses of Richardson, Chris Thompson, Jordan Reed, Derrius Guice, Reuben Foster, Shawn Lauvao and others.
The organization took a risk by slotting all of those names into key parts of their depth chart, knowing full well that they all tended to get hurt. Those decisions have cost them tremendously.
Moving forward, Ron Rivera will look to build out his roster, and thanks to the releases of Norman and Richardson, he has more money to do so in free agency. It'll be on him to spend it wisely — and realize the mistakes his new team has made recently.
If Rivera wants to replace Norman with a pricey free agent corner, for instance, he and Jack Del Rio will need to ensure that corner will be coming to a defense where he can thrive. In fact, they already have one defensive back they need to take advantage of in Landon Collins, or else he may leave in a few years on a similar note as Norman.
In general, Rivera and his staff must be flexible and put their stars in the right roles.
And when it comes to committing big money to free agents, the Redskins may have to be pickier about durability. Most NFL players will have some injury concerns, and some will suffer ones in the future that are impossible to foresee. Yet guys like Richardson, who had multiple I.R. stints before joining Washington, may need to be bypassed for healthier options.
Poor personnel choices will happen. That said, the Redskins can do a better job of limiting them. If Rivera, Kyle Smith and the rest of the front office are wiser with whom they bring in, and then mold their systems around those additions, then there should be fewer Normans and Richardsons in the coming years.
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