2014 49ers' Opponents Review and Preview: Washington

Patrick Smith

We take a look at Washington in anticipation of playing them next season.

There seemed to be a definite gap between expectation and reality for Washington last season - in numerous ways. Obviously, after capturing the division title two years ago, Washington was expected to take the next step forward under the re-built Robert Griffin III. But, it looks like people shouldn't have been expecting RG3 to come back so quickly from his knee injury. He had a lackluster season (according to Football Outsiders, he ranked 32nd and 31st in the league at DYAR and DVOA, respectively - brief explanations of which and a chart containing these statistics can be found here), and the team sure didn't help by putting weapons around him, for instance.

En route to a 3-13 season, it seemed like the blame game was more abundant at times than an actual football game. This is, of course, not fair to some of the talent Washington has on the team (more on that in the following section), but the bickering and unreached expectations resulted in the firing of Mike Shanahan. The young Jay Gruden was hired to come in and patch things together.

Another storyline worth keeping an eye on this offseason is about what Washington will do with backup Kirk Cousins. In his limited opportunities, he has acquitted himself quite well. While I doubt anything substantial will happen this offseason, there is still a chance that Washington might flip him for some draft picks. They are, as we will see below, without a first round draft pick (yet again), so they may want to infuse a bit more young talent into their roster by picking up additional picks. Moreover, Cousins likely wants a chance at being a starter. As I say, though, I would be surprised if anything happened this season. Washington probably likes have an "insurance policy" for RG3's knee and their asking price is likely too high.

Washington has already started to shore up their roster by re-signing NT Chris Baker and CB DeAngelo Hall. While Hall is getting up there in age and his coverage is starting to be a little bit shaky (Pro Football Focus graded him to a -3.0 pass coverage score last season, which is not as inspiring as you would like from a starter, obviously), Washington probably wants somebody they think of as reliable against the offensively explosive Philadelphia Eagles.

Free Agents:

Rex Grossman, QB; Dezmon Briscoe, WR; Josh Morgan, WR; Santana Moss, WR; Fred Davis, TE; J.D. Walton, OL; Rob Jackson, LB; Brian Orakpo, LB; Darryl Tapp, LB; Nick Barnett, LB; London Fletcher, LB; Bryan Kehl, LB; Perry Riley, LB; E.J. Biggers, LB; Josh Wilson, CB; Reed Doughty, S; Jose Gumbs, S; Brandon Meriweather, S.

I think it quite likely that Washington will be a pretty big player in free agency this offseason. Washington has a very nice $29,674,986 in cap space and quite a few positions to upgrade. Without a first round draft pick, if Washington feels the need to make a big splash on their roster, it will likely be through free agency.

It appears that Washington is not inclined to bring back safety Brandon Meriweather, so they might look to other veterans to come in and provide some competition for the younger Philip Thomas. In addition, with LB London Fletcher retiring, Washington will need to find an answer to their Inside LB group. Re-signing Perry Riley should help with that problem. The real defensive talent on this team, though, is OLB and pass-rusher extraordinaire Brian Orakpo. While it could be conceivable that Orakpo gets a long-term contract with the team this offseason, he feels like a prime franchise tag candidate.

Draft Picks:

Second Round: own - No. 2 (34th Overall)
Third Round: own - No. 2 (66th Overall)
Fourth Round: own - No. 2 (98th Overall)
Fifth Round: own - No. 2 (130th Overall)
Sixth Round: own - No. 2 (162nd Overall)
Seventh Round: own - No. 2 (194th Overall)

Washington dealt their first round pick to the St. Louis Rams as part of the RG3 trade. While RG3 has shown tremendous potential, the Rams have done fairly well with that deal. Now they just need to find their own QB!

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