“Our problems really didn’t start until when?” he requested reporters that day. “Until our quarterback got hurt.”
Two years later, Rivera is nonetheless trying to find an answer at quarterback, however this time in Washington, the place his workforce constructed a basis in his first yr with a powerful protection, a couple of budding stars and a spot within the playoffs. For the primary time in years, the Washington Football Team has hope of creating into a good workforce — a successful workforce — however provided that Rivera and his newly built front office, with General Manager Martin Mayhew and government vice chairman of soccer/participant personnel Marty Hurney, can efficiently revamp a roster that has many obtrusive holes.
Their precedence is undoubtedly quarterback, a place that has featured 9 starters over the previous 5 seasons (playoffs included) and has no lead candidate for 2021.
Only one in every of Washington’s QBs from final yr — Alex Smith — is underneath contract for subsequent season. The 16-year veteran, who returned from a compound leg fracture to guide the workforce to the playoffs, has two years remaining on his deal, however it’s not a certainty he’ll return. Smith, who turns 37 in May, was beset by one other damage — a bone bruise in his leg — that sidelined him late within the season, and he mentioned he plans to “take a few weeks” to determine his future.
Washington would possibly determine for him. Smith’s contract contains wage cap hits of $24.4 million and $26.4 million over the subsequent two seasons. Should the workforce launch or commerce him, it might save $13.6 million in cap area; $10.8 million from his prorated signing bonus would rely in opposition to Washington’s cap as lifeless cash.
Meanwhile, Kyle Allen continues to get well from ankle surgical procedure and can be an unique rights free agent, making his return all however a formality on an $850,000 wage. Taylor Heinicke may additionally return on a minimal wage, too; he can be a restricted free agent, and Rivera has mentioned the workforce want to preserve him.
But, barring a coaching camp shock, it appears neither is perceived because the long-term starter.
Washington wants a franchise quarterback, and it believes coordinator Scott Turner’s Air Coryell offense has proved it may well succeed with drop-back pocket passers or cell dual-threat gamers.
“Physical traits are one part of it, but they come in all shapes and sizes,” Turner mentioned in November. “… You’ve got to be accurate, and you’ve got to make good decisions.”
To discover its man, Washington has three choices: get a veteran who will be the starter for the foreseeable future; flip to a participant on the roster or from exterior who can tide the workforce over for a yr or two whereas a younger quarterback develops; or draft a quarterback and begin him instantly.
The additions of Mayhew and Hurney give Washington direct ties to a pair of quarterbacks who might be choices as skilled starters. The Lions are looking to move Matthew Stafford, their soon-to-be 33-year-old starter who was drafted in 2009, when Mayhew was the workforce’s GM. Stafford has two years and $43 million left on his contract — an affordable price for a attainable franchise participant — however may have loads of suitors, which can give him leverage to hunt an extension.
Speculation of Cam Newton touchdown in Washington has hovered over the workforce since Rivera was employed, and as Newton heads totally free company once more, discuss has resurfaced. Hurney was Carolina’s GM in 2011 and labored carefully with Rivera to judge Newton forward of the draft, and Newton is aware of Turner’s system properly. But he’s coming off a down season in New England, and although he says he’s entering the offseason healthy for the primary time in years, his sturdiness should still be questioned.
Two different veterans might be pricey, in the event that they even change into obtainable. Deshaun Watson is reportedly unhappy in Houston after signing a new contract, and Dak Prescott is due an enormous second contract — or one other franchise tag — from the Dallas Cowboys.
But Washington’s wants lengthen properly past quarterback.
Washington re-signed center Chase Roullier and has proper deal with Morgan Moses returning, however proper guard Brandon Scherff can be a free agent after taking part in on a $15.03 million franchise tag final season. Although he hasn’t performed a full season since 2016 due to accidents, Scherff is coming off one in every of his best years but, with all-pro and Pro Bowl honors, and former sports activities agent Joel Corry believes he could command $15 million per year in average value on a long-term deal. A second franchise tag, with a 20 % elevate, would price roughly $18 million.
“I’ve always said I want to stay where I got drafted,” Scherff mentioned. “I’ve been here for six years, and I absolutely love it here. … We are building something here to absolutely make a run for it in the future.”
Washington additionally wants depth throughout the offensive line, notably at deal with. It wants depth at tight finish behind Logan Thomas. And it wants one other starting extensive receiver to pair with Terry McLaurin. The workforce is anticipated to have Kelvin Harmon again from damage, and it hopes Antonio Gandy-Golden develops right into a downfield menace. But Mayhew and Rivera have cited the worth of getting an established veteran at the place previously.
One participant who might be of curiosity in free company is Curtis Samuel, a flexible wideout who performed for Rivera and Turner in Carolina. Samuel, 24, posted profession highs in catches (77), receiving yards (851), carries (41) and speeding yards (200) final yr for the Panthers. There are a number of different big-name receivers who might be obtainable as free brokers, together with Allen Robinson (Chicago), JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh) and Kenny Golladay (Detroit).
Washington is higher geared up on protection, with a deep line that can boast 4 first-round picks if Ryan Kerrigan leaves in free company as anticipated. But it wants assist at linebacker — Thomas Davis is retiring, and Kevin Pierre-Louis can be a free agent — and at cornerback.
Ronald Darby’s contract is up, and he was praised by Rivera at season’s finish, an indication he might be one of many workforce’s priorities amongst its personal free brokers. To discover depth at cornerback — Fabian Moreau can be a free agent, too — Washington may flip to each the market and the draft.
“I think [it’s] finishing off what we feel is the few pieces we need to solidify that group,” Rivera mentioned of the protection. “We found out a little about a lot of our young players. We have some ideas as to some positions that we can strengthen and improve on. We can be even better.”