The hiring of Ron Rivera as head coach gave the Washington Football Team a level of credibility it has not had. They are not piling up a ton of wins yet (2-7 this season), but their last three losses have come by a field goal or less.
Washington has a long-term question at quarterback, as Dwayne Haskins does not appear to be the guy. If they can make a move there, a return to playoff contention could come in 2021. In fact, they can’t be ruled out this year yet with the NFC East as bad as it is.
The NFL salary is set to drop next year, but Washington is in pretty good position. According to Over The Cap, with a projected cap of $176 million, Washington is projected to have $51.186 million in cap space (fifth-most in the league).
Last offseason, Rivera confirmed Washington pursued free agent wide receiver Amari Cooper “all the way until the end.” They reportedly offered Cooper more money too.
Next offseason, Washington will have money, an apparent desire to make win-now moves. The ability to sell a new culture under Rivera will help too.
Here are three intriguing free agent targets Washington should already be keeping an eye on.
3. DE Yannick Ngakoue
Ngakoue got his wish to leave Jacksonville just before the season started, with a trade to the Minnesota Vikings. He had five sacks in six games for the Vikings, but he was traded again, this time to the Baltimore Ravens. He hasn’t done a lot in three games for the Ravens (zero sacks, two solo tackles, one quarterback hit). But he will hit the market as a highly-coveted pass rusher, and he’ll be just shy of his 26th birthday when free agency starts.
Washington is set to move forward next year without long-time stalwart Ryan Kerrigan. They will still have a very good, deep defensive line though, with 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young as the headliner. Imagine Young and Ngakoue coming off the edge for years to come.
2. WR Allen Robinson
Robinson may or may not have asked the Bears to trade him this year, and it doesn’t seem like a long-term deal to stay in Chicago is coming.
Going back to college at Penn State, Robinson has caught passes from Matt McGloin, Christian Hackenburg, Chad Henne, Blake Bortles, Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles. That Foles could be regarded as the best of that bunch says it all.
Washington has a young stud wide receiver in Terry McLaurin, who has succeeded similarly to Robinson despite lackluster quarterback play. The two of them together would be one of the best receiver duos in the league, with an upgrade under center a parallel order.
1. QB Dak Prescott
Prescott had his 2020 season end early due to a major leg injury. However, early indications are he’s making great progress in his recovery. The Cowboys are trying to show their commitment to him as their quarterback of the future. The reality paints a different picture though.
Dallas is 2-7 and moving toward a high pick in the 2021 draft. Putting the franchise tag on Prescott again would a prohibitive cost, with a lower salary cap coming. And that leaves aside any immediate performance questions coming off his injury. A multi-year deal would be costly. The Cowboys have paid the price for waiting it out with Prescott, before ultimately starting to quibble over the length of a deal last offseason.
Once he’s recovered from his leg injury, Prescott should be no worse for the wear with a bright future. He will have multiple suitors in free agency, if he’s allowed to hit the market. Washington could very well be atop the list.