ASHBURN – Redskins vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said a great many things Thursday after safety Landon Collins’ introductory press conference. Two items involving linebacker and organizational thinking with perhaps what's next stood out.
Ready for Ryan
The Redskins added a couple of key pieces in recent days, but also lost a few players in free agency including outside linebacker Preston Smith. The 2015 second-round pick agreed to a free agent contract with the Packers this week. Smith’s departure leaves Washington with uncertainty at the spot opposite Ryan Kerrigan.
That is unless Ryan Anderson takes over.
Anderson, a second-round selection in 2017, played in 27 games over his first two seasons. There were moments of intrigue from the burly linebacker. Not so much with his statistics: 32 tackles, two sacks, zero starts.
Based on the draft investment, it would seem logical the Redskins give Anderson a chance at the starting spot. The production over the first two seasons suggests the front office may target help. Washington could dip into a strong class of edge rushers in the 2019 draft if it passes on any veteran free agents – or aren’t sure Anderson is ready for the responsibility.
That was exactly the question posed to Williams Thursday.
“That’s a good question for Ryan. A damn good question for Ryan,” Williams said. “I think Ryan’s mentality – Ryan thought he was from Day 1 when he got here. That’s his mentality. His rookie year he was pissed that he wasn’t playing last year. He understands how it works. He didn’t walk into Alabama and start. It’s Ryan’s time. I’m sure Ryan is ready to play.”
A primary focus for the Redskins in my two-round mock drafts involves an edge rusher. That won’t change after Williams’ comments. Anderson’s potential remains, but so do the questions.
Bye bye, Brown
While Smith, Jamison Crowder, Ty Nsekhe and others departed via free agency, linebacker Zach Brown and defensive lineman Stacy McGee were released Wednesday before the official start of free agency.
Brown, who turns 30 in October, signed as a free agent in 2017. Releasing Brown, a starting inside linebacker the last two seasons, saved Washington $5.75 million toward the 2019 salary cap. The ex-Bill was leading the league in tackles before a late-season injury slowed him down in 2017.
Washington re-signed Brown to a three-year free agent contract last March. He dealt with an oblique injury much of last season.
McGee, who signed a 5-year, $25 million contract in 2017, missed a chunk of 2018 with an abdominal injury. He was also buried on the depth chart behind Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle. His release saved another $4.675 million.
On the surface, the justification for both moves seems obvious. The Redskins rank 22nd in available salary cap space ($16.7 million) even after the recent activity, according to the website Over The Cap, with several roster holes remaining.
Williams pushed back on such finances-first thinking.
“That was not a salary cap move. That was a business decision, a team decision,” Williams stated.
“You got to look at this from our team and if you notice, players got cut all over the league yesterday. Number one, you give a guy a chance this early to catch on somewhere else. Because No. 1 you look at your football team, where do they fit on your football team? Do they fit your football team?
“You can't just carry a guy just because he was on your team. Somewhere along the line, you've got to make some tough choices.”
Let’s discuss that decision with Brown.
Williams spoke truth when he said this wasn’t a salary cap decision.
Coach Jay Gruden benched Brown late last season amid overall defensive struggles even when the linebacker returned from an illness that cost Brown some practice time. "You see the writing on the wall,” Brown said at the time.
The combination of inconsistencies in the run and pass game and, according to sources throughout Brown’s time in Washington, communication issues with the coaching staff and teammates fueled the decision. Claiming Reuben Foster off waivers in December provided a potential replacement option.
The Redskins have additional tough choices on deck.
“We haven’t discussed the salary cap thing. All we discussed right now is football players,” Williams said of his conversations with team president Bruce Allen and salary cap guru Eric Schaeffer. “Free agency is still open. There are going to be some guys that are going to cut. … There are some guys that haven’t been approached yet. We’re still talking to some guys. We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens in the next couple, three days.”
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