The 2021 NFL league year, and the official opening of free agency that comes with it, began this past Thursday, March 17th. The Washington Football Team, coming off an over-achieving season, was in a premier position to make some valuable acquisitions, as it had the sixth most cap space; almost 40 million dollars of space. They did just that. The Football Team’s primary acquisitions include signing the former Dolphin (his most recent team) quarterback Ryan “Fitzmagic” Fitzpatrick, cornerback William Jackson III (formerly of the Bengals), and the speedy receiver Curtis Samuel, coming from the Carolina Panthers, and reuniting with his former head coach and GM. This free agency not just covered, but exceeded all of Washington’s primary needs, which is why I’m grading it an A-.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: The quarterback position is the most important position on the team, and Wsahington was in dire need of a quarterback after the release of Alex Smith. After not hitting on Matthew Stafford, Fitzpatrick was arguably the next best quarterback “realistically” available. The veteran quarterback is coming off a solid year; he was leading the Dolphins to the playoffs before his head-scratching benching. Aside from being a clear upgrade from any quarterback Washington has had since Kirk Cousins, Fitzmagic should mesh well with the Washington system for a variety of reasons. First off, he’s been on 8 different NFL teams before coming to Washington, so he should pick up Scott Turner’s playbook in no time. His experience will also allow him to mentor the younger Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke (and/or a potential rookie). He’s also notorious for targeting his “number one” wide receiver a ton. Conveniently, Washington has one of the best receivers in the game in Terry McLaurin.
William Jackson III: Similar theme here: a departure created a gaping hole, and that hole was not only replaced, but upgraded. After Ronald Darby signed with the Broncos, Washington went out and signed the best cornerback in all of free agency, William Jackson III. For some people, this may not be a familiar name. So how can someone who a typical NFL fan hasn’t heard of be the top corner of free agency? Maybe because teams don’t throw his way, causing him to not get action. PFF gave him an 80.8 coverage grade last year, and he allowed only a 57.9 passer rating when targeted (7th best in the league). Aside from having a dynamic pairing with Kendall Fuller, Washington has found a guy that they could use to shadow opponents’ number one receiver everywhere they go.
Curtis Samuel: Washington operated all of last year without a number two receiver. Because of this, teams could throw all their attention at McLaurin without any worry of being hurt by someone else. Samuel, McLaurin’s teammate in college, changes everything. Even faster than McLaurin, Samuel can line up anywhere on the field; even running back. Of course, he’s known for being a dynamic receiver. He posted a league best deep ball catch percentage of 77%. This will work well with Fitzpatrick, who loves to sling 50/50 balls deep.
While certain positions, like FS, LB, WR3, still need addressing, The Football Team has certainly tackled its biggest needs. And while the long term solution at QB is still not found, with Fitzpatrick and company, Washington is still in a prime position to defend its NFC East championship