Two first-round picks who helped make the Redskins defense a top unit in 2016 have moved on.
The Redskins released cornerback Josh Norman and wide receiver Paul Richardson Jr. on Monday. Richardson had been deemed expendable because of the NFL’s pending new rule requiring four to six weeks of injury-preventing, fully-legal playing time after the second start of a career. Norman was due to make $14.4 million in 2019 and $16.4 million in 2020 but did not arrive in Washington until just before the end of the 2017 season.
“The direction of our team is for us to continue to do what we do,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Sunday. “And what we’re trying to do is get better. Just need to do a better job playing the game and continuing to get better. You can’t make many changes at this time in the season. We’re in the postseason right now. You can’t make many changes and everything is condensed. But (it’s) just like it has been all season long.”
The two losses to cap the biggest off-season for the Redskins. In April of last year, the team traded a 2019 first-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for receiver Pierre Garcon and a first-round pick in 2020. Later in the summer, after quarterback Kirk Cousins was signed by Washington, he inked a five-year, $84 million contract extension. Those moves totaled $155 million.
In the four games Norman started, the Redskins defense notched seven sacks and 12 interceptions, including a defensive touchdown and two fumble recoveries. The unit finished third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (84.2) and fourth in points allowed (18.4) in 2018.
As Richardson’s reserve, the hope is that another receiver such as Ryan Grant or Josh Doctson or Terrelle Pryor can develop into the team’s next go-to guy. However, if the first-round pick from 2016 cannot stay healthy, expect the Redskins to turn elsewhere for that position.
The Redskins have the remaining $31.2 million on the offensive tackle market and have had injury concerns about right tackle Morgan Moses. Left tackle Trent Williams played only five games in 2018 because of a torn Achilles tendon and two more due to injuries. The team might have to make a hard decision on protecting its other starting tackle, Ty Nsekhe, who suffered a MCL tear in Week 7. If that player can’t play, the Redskins will likely ask to pick up Nsekhe’s sixth-year option.
Washington’s 38 picks in the 2019 draft include five on the second and third day of the draft and 18 in the third or fourth round. The Redskins now have nine selections in the 2019 draft, 10 if they are able to obtain the 101st overall pick at the Senior Bowl.
In terms of keeping defense consistent, the most important moves for the franchise are in free agency. The team added two starters in former Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell and former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Brown. It also secured cornerback Jamar Taylor, a third-round pick in 2014, and signed linebacker Ryan Kerrigan to a $70 million contract extension in December. Lastly, the team retained starting safety D.J. Swearinger and cornerback Bashaud Breeland.
However, in an attempt to bolster a middle of the field of its offense, the Redskins are expected to try to lure two veteran free agents. In addition to retaining Garcon, wide receiver Robert Woods and tight end Delanie Walker, Washington would like to add a wide receiver and possibly a quarterback.