“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.
Ferris Bueller was spot on with his observation, and NFL life is no exception to this great movie quote. Twelve months ago, life looked very different for the Washington Football Team. Excitement was mounting around the expected development of QB Dwayne Haskins, the starting backfield was likely to consist of Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice, Logan Thomas had just signed but hardly anyone cared, and nobody had even heard of Kam Curl. Oh, and the team was called the Washington Redskins!
So, I’ve dusted off my crystal ball and identified some changes that could happen within 12 months. Some are based around reasonable logic, others on a wing and a prayer and at least one potentially requiring a miracle of some kind! I look forward to re-visiting this piece in 12 months to either pat myself on the back (unlikely), or re-affirm that I’m better off out of the predictions game (more likely).
1) Landon Collins and Brandon Scherff are no longer on the team after the 2021 Season
The team’s two highest paid players both face an uncertain 12 months. Landon Collins is returning from his torn Achilles, and although he’s generally played OK in his time with the team, he hasn’t justified his top five salary for the position.
Additionally, the emergence of Kam Curl has further clouded the picture as both are best suited to the strong safety position. Curl may be able to play some free safety, and there’s a good chance that both players could be on the field at the same time. But if Curl reproduces his rookie form, Collins could be in danger after this season. His cap hit is prohibitive for 2021 ($26,500,000 dead cap money, dropping to $16,700,000 if cut post June 1st), but that number drops considerably ($9,600,000) if he is jettisoned after the current season. My guess is that this is Collins last season in Washington.
Brandon Scherff is playing on the franchise tag for the second consecutive season and stands to earn just over $18,000,000 dollars, an extraordinary amount for a guard. The two sides could potentially strike a long term deal before the July deadline, but the baseline for that deal is going to be extremely high given the tag figure and the deal recently handed to Joe Thuney in Kansas City ($16,0000 APY). As good as Scherff is, does the team really want to commit that kind of money to the position when it could bring in a serviceable replacement for half the price? Or is it more wise to put the rest into the warchest to re-sign some of the upcoming expiring rookie deals, beginning with Jon Allen? My guess is no, and Scherff will be heading to the exit door with Collins.
2) Washington drafts Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and he becomes a sensation
Drafting at 19, Washington is unlikely to be in a position to draft a QB, and the top three WR’s and CB’s may well be gone. The signing of William Jackson III may now mean that Washington narrows it’s focus for the first pick to tackle or linebacker. There may be some quality tackles available at 19, but the most intriguing prospect could be Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. JOK is a somewhat polarising prospect as his tweener physique (6ft 1 and 215lbs) has lead some analysts to suggest that he doesn’t possess the size to be a dominant LB in the NFL. Some have compared him to Isaiah Simmons who struggled to establish himself with Arizona last year.
However, I believe that Koramoah could be the missing piece for this defense if given the proper role to suit his skillset. He has incredible physical skills with his speed, explosiveness and agility making him a nightmare for opposition offenses to control. The key for Washington will be to harness his skills properly, and playing behind a dominant defensive line and in front of a reinforced secondary, JOK will become a sideline to sideline terror, using his speed and aggression to destroy opposition backs in the running game and blitzing with devastating results in the passing game when he is not using his speed and agility to effectively cover backs and tight ends. He will become the missing piece in a perfect marriage that will see the Washington defense take the jump from very good to great.
3) Washington wins 10 games, retains the division and wins a playoff game
Following perhaps the most stable off-season for many years (so far), Washington takes the next step on the field in 2021. Despite a tough looking schedule, a Ryan Fitzpatrick inspired team wins 10 games (10-7 sounds weird doesn’t it?), retains the NFC East title and wins a home playoff game.
Of course, everyone is optimistic at this time of the year (unless you’re a Bears or Texans fan maybe), and the NFL is notoriously unpredictable, but the arrow is definitely pointing up for Washington. The team is perhaps not yet a Super Bowl contender, but should be in the mix for a playoff berth.
Winning the always unpredictable NFC East back to back is never easy, and with Dak Prescott returning to health and the Giants adding weapons it will certainly be a challenge (having ignored Philly they will probably now win the division!). I can see Ryan Fitzpatrick providing something that Washington has not had in recent seasons — solid, starter level QB play, which, when combined with an ascending defense should be good enough to ensure postseason action. I also believe that Washington will be good enough to take the next step and win their first round playoff game for the first time since 2005.
The potential downside to this eventuality is that the long term answer to the QB conundrum position will still be up in the air. “Fitzmagic” will make the fans fall in love with him and demand another season, and the team will be drafting too low and also unlikely to have enough draft capital to move up for a potential franchise QB. A price worth paying? A divisional title and a playoff win isn’t to be sniffed at but the QB dilemma gets moved on another season, short of a blockbuster trade.
4) Washington Football Team becomes permanent name
After completing extensive consultation, fan engagement and market research, the conclusion is that the Washington Football Team becomes the permanent name for the organisation.
Campaigns have been mounted for any number of possible names, and amateur graphic designers have had a field day creating new logos, uniforms and other associated branding which will ultimately come to nothing. When all is said and done, the team realises that any new nickname is not going to be unanimous and decides to stick with the simple, clean but slightly unimaginative Washington Football Team.
Redwolves stans go into mourning and Twitter explodes with furious indignation as the team elects to turn the temporary into the permanent, and a full rebrand is finalised. The numbers on the helmet are replaced by a ‘W’ and a new fight song is somehow created. Team President Jason Wright has hinted at this and then walked it back, but there are enough crumbs out there to suggest that this is going to happen.
5) Daniel Snyder sells the team
If I’m honest, this is more of a dream than a realistic hope, but hey, I said these were bold predictions! Given that the NFL approved Snyder’s request to exceed the debt limit in order to purchase the remaining 40% of the team, it seems unlikely that it will put him under pressure to sell the franchise.
However, the Beth Wilkinson report has yet to be received and the findings could yet present both the NFL and Snyder himself with some difficult conclusions to digest. A supposed leak of the report emerged recently, suggesting that the main recommendation will be that Snyder be forced to sell the team, something that the NFL strenuously denied. Should there be any truth in the report, it could place both the NFL and Snyder in a difficult position given the purchase of the remaining 40% of the team. It seems unlikely that the league would sanction such a move if they knew the report may be so nuclear, but it’s not impossible.
Theories emerged on Twitter suggesting that it would be easier and more valuable for Snyder to sell the whole of the team rather than 60% of it, and this may well be true, although he may simply be strengthening his position.
For the purposes of this article though, I’m going to go with my heart rather than my head and say that the pressure on Snyder once the outcome of the Wilkinson report is known becomes too much and the subsequent public outcry, with threats to boycott the team leads him to relinquishing control and selling up.
So there you go, 5 bold predictions as we sit here a month out from the 2021 draft. I look forward to sitting here in 12 months time and seeing whether I should consider a career as a fortune teller, or more likely laughing at how far off I was! Time will tell!
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