The 2017 NFL Draft is officially part of the past, along with the majority of free agency. Time for a look at what’s on deck and around the corner for the Washington Redskins.
What’s Your Name?
Rookies report to Ashburn for a three-day minicamp starting May 12, meaning that is the first chance to see first-rounder Jonathan Allen and Washington’s other nine draft picks. Well, except for those injured, like cornerback Fabian Moreau (torn pectoral) and safety Montae Nicholson (torn labrum). But it does include a contingent of undrafted free agents, including Maryland wide receiver Levern Jacobs and Kansas safety Fish Smithson.
Allen, a star defensive lineman at Alabama and a Northern Virginia native, is the true headliner. Washington desperately needed help with its defensive front and was fortunate the All-American slipped into the middle of round one. The talent is undeniable, but that 16 other players went ahead of him is curious, especially with concerns of arthritic shoulders.
The veterans enter the mix for three consecutive weeks of Organized Team Activities (OTA) May 12 through 14. Expect the vast majority if not every single player on the roster at Redskins Park for the "non-mandatory" sessions. Expect reports of players appearing "in the best shape of career" or "focused" for the upcoming season.
Don’t fall hard for all the positivity though -- it was in this stretch when buzz of unknown rookie running back and future starter Robert Kelley began to grow.
Speaking Of The Backfield…
One of the more intriguing battles involves the running back unit. That includes the starter – Kelley faces a stiff challenge from fourth-round pick Samaje Perine – and who makes the roster. The power-packed Perine set the NCAA’s single-game rushing record in 2014 with 427 yards against Kansas. Kelley rose up Washington’s depth charts to lead the Redskins in rushing last season, though the overall ground game faded in the final weeks.
Matt Jones went from starter to inactive because of fumble woes and his lack of special teams ability. Now he faces steep odds of sticking around long-term. Chris Thompson’s pass-catching role is the only secure part of the group. Holdover Mack Brown rounds out the likely challengers.
The Doctson Is In House
Josh Doctson’s painful rookie season began with an Achilles injury suffered during last season’s minicamp and ended officially in October when Washington placed its 2016 first-round selection on injured reserve. In between the wide receiver rarely participated in practices and caught just two passes before being shelved. Since then there have been reports of physical improvement plus the occasional short video of the 6-foot-2 target running drills.
The Redskins need a healthy Doctson this season, and not just because DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon left in free agency. The weekly questions about Doctson to head coach Jay Gruden eventually became awkward in part because of the apparent uncertainty. Now it’s time to see what tangible qualities he can provide. Getting on the field during OTAs is the first step.
There are position battles. There are free agent debuts, including wide receiver Terrell Pryor and linebacker Zach Brown. Intriguing stories will emerge. All will be overshadowed by the never-ending drama surrounding quarterback Kirk Cousins’ contract. By now you know the deal about his lack of a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 15 to agree on an extension or Cousins, for the second consecutive year, plays on the NFL’s franchise tag.
The difference this time is the rising price of a third franchise tag becomes extra costly – $28 million at least. That means Cousins could taste free agency in 2018. This topic will come up early and often, if not hourly, during OTA sessions. You've been warned.