By: Joe Pohoryles
The 2020 NFL league year officially started today at 4 pm EST. Contract negotiations have been allowed for the past few days in the “legal tampering” period, but the new season starts today. The Redskins did not make any big splashes to start the year, and saw more big names in positions of need sign elsewhere.
The team signed safety Sean Davis, running back J.D. McKissic, and re-signed linebacker Nate Orchard. Davis, a former second-round pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers, got a one-year/$5 million deal, and Orchard was brought back for one year as well (amount TBD). McKissic, the former Detroit Lion, received a two-year deal.
Orchard was brought in late last season, and garnered 14 tackles in five games. Orchard worked out for other teams as a free agent 10 times in 2019 before landing a deal in Washington. The 2015 second-round pick was installing windows before he got a chance with the burgundy and gold, and now he earned himself another season to contribute off the bench.
McKissic comes in as a receiving option from the backfield, putting longtime third down back Chris Thompson’s future in question. McKissic appeared in all 16 games for Detroit last season, garnering 205 rushing yards and 233 receiving yards and one touchdown on 34 receptions. His addition should be a welcome one. Adrian Peterson turns 35 in three days, Derrius Guice has been hampered by major injuries since being drafted in 2018, and Bryce Love is returning from a major knee injury of his own. Love has yet to appear in an NFL game. Bottom line, the Redskins’ backfield is full of question marks, so if McKissic can deliver, it will take more pressure off the early down backs.
Thompson will turn 30 in October, and appeared in all 16 games just once in his career, so with his age and injury history, it’s looking like the team will want to go younger with their receiving back. McKissic will turn 27 in August, and was able to nail down a consistent role in Detroit’s ever-changing backfield in 2019. He’ll be relied on as a safety valve for Dwayne Haskins Jr.
Davis adds more support for the secondary, but he has mixed reviews. A DC native and former Maryland Terrapin, Davis returns to his hometown to attempt to revive the secondary. Davis has been the Steelers’ starting free safety since the 2018 season, although he played just one game in 2019 after a Week 2 shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. He was the 39th-ranked safety by Pro Football Focus in 2018.
From what I’ve seen on Twitter, plenty of Steelers fans are happy to have him off their hands, but he seems to be a solid pass defender who is certainly an upgrade over incumbent Montae Nicholson, who has a slew of off-field issues to go with underwhelming play on the field. For just $5 million and one year, this is an extremely low risk move for a bounce-back candidate. You can’t be mad at it.
Hopefully the team is not done with the secondary. Contrary to what I said yesterday, the team reportedly looked into signing Desmond Trufant, but he ended up going to Detroit on a two-year/$21 million deal. Bashaud Breeland is still on the table, but as more time passes, fewer options will remain.
Tight end remains a gaping hole, and the team reportedly has interest in Delanie Walker. Walker is well-past his prime, and I personally believe Eric Ebron would be a much better option (at least at a reasonable price), but it will be interesting to see what it comes down to.
As for other targets still on the market, Emmanuel Sanders and Robby Anderson come to mind. The team still needs receiving help, and missed out on Amari Cooper, who turned down the Redskins to return to Dallas for slightly less money. Sanders turned 33 yesterday, and had 869 yards last season with the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. With Terry McLaurin entrenched as the top receiver, Sanders could be a valuable, productive veteran presence.
Anderson will be 27 in May, though he’s never topped 1,000 yards in a season. His career-high 914 yards came in 2017, so while he has talent, he may not be worth the price tag he could generate. The Redskins could use one or two proven veteran options to compensate for the youth of McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims Jr. Cooper would have made the receiving corps much more lethal, and judging on the Houston Texans’ return for giving up DeAndre Hopkins, the Skins could have conceivably struck up a great deal for him.
While those top tier options are off the table, there are other options out there. The defense has received much of the attention early in free agency, so look for the offense to get some additions as the days go on.
(Cover Photo Credit: NBC Sports Washington)