The Washington Redskins pushed all their chips in when they hired the coach many refer to as “Riverboat Ron” back in January. Now, months later, as Ron Rivera starts rebuilding the once-proud franchise that calls Maryland home, the veteran coach is making good use of the “bargain bin” as the dust on his first free agency period starts to settle.
Ron Rivera Starts his Rebuild
One thing is for sure with Rivera’s course of action in his first free agency in control of the burgundy and gold roster, and that’s the fact he refuses to overpay incoming players despite having $60+ million to spend. As a result, Rivera only signed two players, OL Wes Schweitzer and DB Kendall Fuller, to multi-year deals that could be viewed as long-term. Schweitzer will complete with second-year guard Wes Martin for the starting left guard position after Ereck Flowers left via free agency, heading to the Miami Dolphins.
A Closer Look
For Schweitzer (26), who was drafted as a left tackle in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s a chance at playing with the first team again. The third-year vet has started 36 out of the possible 46 games he’s dressed for in his career at guard for the Atlanta Falcons. Schweitzer’s three-year deal includes a three-million-dollar signing bonus and four million in guarantees. In addition, the deal gives him a cap hit of $2.48 million in 2020; it goes up to five million in 2021 and six million for the 2022 season.
Fuller (25), on the other hand, was initially drafted by the Redskins and then traded to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade. During his time with the Chiefs, he not only matured, but he also won a Super Bowl ring in the process. Fuller grew up in Maryland and was devastated when he discovered he was traded from his hometown team. While he missed six weeks due to an injured thumb, he still contributed to the Chiefs run last season and intercepted the pass that sealed the deal in Super Bowl 54. He’ll make nearly $40 million in the next four years with $23.5 million in total guarantees and a $12.5 million-dollar signing bonus. The breakdown is below:
- $4.125 million vs. the cap in 2020
- $13.125 million in ’22
- $11.125 million in ’23
- $11.625 million in ’24
- The $10 million base salary for next season becomes fully guaranteed on the 3rd day of the ’21 league year.
Fuller was asked Wednesday what the difference was between now and the first time he was in Washington:
“I just think as a rookie and leading up to my first year I was still just trying to find myself. I think after my rookie year, just trying to get that full offseason to recover from my knee surgery and my knee injury and things like that. I think the first time was me just trying to figure myself out, find myself and things like that. I think now, just knowing my game more, knowing my strengths and my weaknesses, just building that confidence, definitely have become more of a leader, more vocal and things like that. Just that extreme, that knowledge, being in Kansas City those two years, being able to go to the playoffs two years in a row, playing in the AFC Championship, it’s just that experience, that knowledge, and getting around a different group of players, a different group of guys, coaches, and certain stuff I learned from them too.”
The deal given to Fuller is the biggest handed out by Ron Rivera and company. Word had it they were all-in on Amari Cooper at $100+ million, but Cooper decided long ago to stay in Dallas and was merely looking to up his price tag.
A Familiar Face
While those two moves were the biggest deals given, they weren’t the only players Rivera signed. The former Carolina Panthers coach also brought in his former defensive captain Thomas Davis on a one-year deal. Davis (37) is coming off a year with the Chargers in which he amassed over 100 tackles for the seventh time in his career. One quick note on Davis; In the eight seasons since his third ACL tear, he’s missed just three games because of injury, made three Pro Bowls (2013-15), earned second-team All-Pro (2013), and was a first-team All-Pro in 2015. He’s also eclipsed the 100-tackle mark six times and has been a team captain on multiple occasions since his last ACL injury. Davis’ deal is for one year, $3.5 million, with a base of $1.5 million and $1.75 million guaranteed. His overall cap hit in 2020 will be $3.5 million.
Davis will provide veteran leadership to a defense switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3. New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will be looking to Davis to lead his linebacker corp and help teach the other young guys around him in 2020.
When asked how he will try to help the Redskins roster improve, Davis said, “It’s all about practice habits. For me, that’s something that I’ve learned being in this league as long as I have. You start to create your identity and who you’re going to become and what you’re going to be in practice. Just have to change the way you practice; you have to make practice harder than the game. That’s something that we’ve done under Coach Rivera for a long time, and its shown. In Carolina, we had some really good teams, in particular some really good defenses, because we came together, we worked hard, we knew we had good coaches, and we bought into the system. That’s really what it’s all about right now, getting the guys to buy in and understand that you can be whatever you want to be as long as you put the work in.”
Ron Rivera Starts his Rebuild
Other players of note that were signed: former Steelers safety Sean Davis, who could start, Bears swing-tackle Cornelius Lucas & special teams ace Kevin Pierre-Louis. Rivera also added tight ends Logan Thomas and Richard Rodgers; former Giants receiver Cody Latimer; Colts lineman Jeremy Vujnovich; Eagles corner Ronald Darby, Lions running back J.D. McKissic, and Bucs running back Peyton Barber.
All twelve moves were made to bolster the team’s depth and add competition across the board. The addition of McKissic and Barber is interesting, considering the team already has Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, and Bryce Love. Although Peterson is 35, Guice has been injured in two of the only three games he’s been in as a professional, and Love has never stepped foot on an NFL field. McKissic is a former receiver turned running back…he’s not only fast and shifty, but he also runs a good route tree and can catch the ball.
While Ron Rivera didn’t make any big “splash” moves, he took several calculated steps towards what will ultimately help the Redskins build some solid depth behind their starters. In recent years the lack of quality depth has killed Washington, as the team has taken massive hits in the injury department season after season.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we look at how each player can add something to the Redskins in 2020.
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[Featured Image via Garrett Campbell/Washington Redskins]