In the last few years, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has secured himself an up-and-coming head coach in Jay Gruden and he has hired a true general manager in Scot McCloughan. As the two men have put their stamps on the team, the roster (albeit still improvable) and culture have improved; and the team has become more relevant in the NFL in general. It is a good thing when a well-respected site like Pro Football Focus names a team’s players to its “Top 50 Free Agents of 2017” list. In 2017, the Redskins have four guys on this list.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks highest of the four at No. 2, coming in just behind the Pittsburgh Steelers prolific running back, Le’Veon Bell. PFF’s Sam Monson writes:
“Kirk Cousins is not the second-best player scheduled to hit free agency, but he is by far the best quarterback, and in today’s NFL, that makes you an extremely valuable prize, vaulting him up the list. Cousins backed up his 2015 season and has earned himself a long-term deal—and it should be Washington that gives it to him. When kept clean in the pocket this past season, Cousins’ passer rating was 107.2, and he completed 72.3 percent of his passes.”
After Cousins, there is a bit of a stretch before the next Washington player shows up.
Coming in at No. 22 is defensive lineman Chris Baker. Monson’s description of why Baker is on the list is perfect because of the way the undrafted free agent worked his way up to get to his starting position (from the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent to the Miami Dolphins to Washington’s practice squad to an active-roster backup to a starter).
“There are few more anonymous quality players than Washington’s Chris Baker, who for the past two seasons has posted impressive grades against both the run and pass as he has seen his role on defense increase into a starting job. He has averaged 42.5 total pressures over the past two seasons playing defensive end in Washington’s scheme, and has been a tough run defender in each year. Maybe a free-agent contract will give him the recognition his play deserves.”
There are fewer players between Baker and the next Redskin on the list, wideout DeSean Jackson; who is listed at No. 29. Monson’s description of Jackson is on the money as he catalogs the speedy veteran’s value to an offense.
“DeSean Jackson is still one of the league’s most dangerous deep threats, capable of making a big play at any time. In 2016, only T.Y. Hilton had more receptions on deep passes (20+ air yards) than Jackson’s 16, and he scored three times, netting 579 yards (the most in the league) on deep targets alone. He has never been the most complete receiver in the game, but deep threats are a valuable part of NFL offenses, and Jackson is still among the best available.”
Coming in not far behind his pass-catching teammate is fellow receiver Pierre Garçon, who is listed at No. 32 after Monson placed two cornerbacks: the Dallas Cowboys’ Morris Claiborne and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Prince Amukamara. It’s hard to not love that Monson qualifies his comment on the nine-year vet’s age with a great compliment about how good Garçon still is.
“Pierre Garçon’s issue is advancing age, because on play alone, he would be far higher. He ended 2016 with a PFF grade of 85.8, good enough for eighth among all wideouts, and he has a complete skill-set, able to beat people with speed, power and gain yards after the catch. He dropped only one pass in 2016 from 110 targets, and even had a solid blocking grade. He won’t be a long-term answer for anybody, but may be among the better immediate-impact signings.”
While it’s a compliment for them to be there, it doesn’t help the Redskins that these players are on this list. While scouts and general managers certainly don’t base their desire to sign a guy by whether or not he is one of Pro Football Focus’ Top 50 Free Agents, if Washington wants to keep Cousins, Baker, Jackson and/or Garçon… being highly-sought-after will only drive the bidding prices up.