The Washington Redskins have been a meandering franchise for more than 20 years. Around the league, they’ve developed an ugly reputation.
Please Lord, don’t let the Redskins draft any of my players.
This was the feeling of a veteran NFL agent in the days leading up the combine. The agent, who has dealt closely with the Redskins for years, didn’t want another client landing in D.C. So strongly, he considered a higher power for the task.
Thoughts about the Redskins league-wide center around confusion and astonishment. Through talking with multiple league sources, the conversations followed a similar pattern. There were discussions about competent people within the organization being overshadowed by two men. Owner Daniel Snyder and President Bruce Allen.
“It’s incompetence at the highest level,” said one prominent agent. “The Washington Redskins are run like the Trump Administration. They hire people who are allegedly the best of the best and they are the worst of the worst. They fuck over good people on a regular basis.”
Snyder bought the team in 1999. Since, the Redskins have been a source of amusement nationally and embarrassment locally. During his stewardship, the Redskins have never reached an NFC Championship Game.
“We all want quarterbacks to get better, we all want coaches to improve, and it’s obvious owners can improve, but he hasn’t improved,” said another longtime agent. “He’s the same dud owner he was 20 years ago. It’s crazy. Who’s been in the league 20 years and doesn’t improve? …Has Dan Snyder grown one day in 20 years on his job?”
In talking to league sources, Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaffer is the main point of contact in Washington. Conversely, Allen is both hard to reach and difficult to trust, with one source characterizing him as a “politician,” saying “you need to keep your pockets zipped around him.”
Allen has been with the Redskins since 2010, and has served as team president since 2014. Despite the almost-universal dislike and distrust around the league, Allen has been kept on in part to help facilitate a new stadium, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Allen, the son of former Redskins head coach George Allen, has political ties. His brother, George Jr., is the former Governor of Virginia. Snyder wants nothing to do with that side of the dealings.
While Allen is the top lieutenant to Snyder in Washington’s hierarchy, it’s typically Schaffer who serves as point man for personnel conversations. The structure has led to communication breakdowns both inside the organization and beyond.
Referencing the lack of transparency, one agent stated he hasn’t been updated by the team on his player’s medical situation through an injury.
“If I have a client hurt in the building, there’s normally some communication,” said the first agent. “I have not heard one fucking word from the Redskins organization. That’s unheard of in the National Football League. So I have to filter everything through him.”
“In Washington, you can’t text Allen,” the agent said later in our conversation. “You can text Schaffer and maybe one other guy, (Director of Player Personnel) Alex Santos. What happens is the building turns over people, good people like (former General Manager Scot) McCloughan.”
Still, every agent spoken to says they would do business with Washington. When asked if the Redskins are the most dysfunctional franchise in football or the toughest to deal with, one agent quickly said no on both counts before offering a thought.
“I think any agent making a big deal out of this is being sensationalistic,” said one source.
As for McCloughan, he was hired by the team in 2015 but ousted two years later, reportedly after struggles with alcohol. His firing is lamented by many around the league, but from others, is seen as justified.
McCloughan had previously been fired in Seattle and San Francisco, allegedly for the same issue, only to be given another chance by Allen. Allen, who was a family friend of the McCloughans, gave him not only a third opportunity. It didn’t work.
However, another source emphatically believes McCloughan didn’t have a drinking problem in Washington and was railroaded by Allen.
Following McCloughan’s firing, the former general manager sought the remaining $2.8 million on his contract in arbitration. The arbitrator, former Attorney General of New Jersey Peter Harvey, provided a 60-page decision on the hearing. He found in favor of the Redskins.
Allen and Snyder did not respond to interview requests for this story.
Last week provided another example of the Redskins creating a controversy. The team released veteran linebacker Mason Foster the day before camp began, causing Foster’s agent, Blake Baratz, to publicly criticize the team on social media. Internally, the Redskins acknowledge the timing was poor, but believe it was the correct decision.
Then there’s Trent Williams’ desire to be traded over a dispute with the team’s medical staff, which was also called into question during my conversations with league sources. Entering his 10th season, Williams is a seven-time Pro Bowler and by all accounts, a model employee. Now, Williams wants out.
Another agent spoke at length about the Redskins and their negotiating tactics with in-house players. This has led to a flurry of homegrown stars leaving town, including Kirk Cousins, Jamison Crowder and Preston Smith in recent seasons.
Conversely, the Redskins doled out $86 million to safety Landon Collins in March. Washington believes Collins, a three-time Pro Bowler, is a unique player worth spending lavishly on. Still, the move led to texts from a pair of general managers. One succinctly sent “WOW” while the other was more biting in his criticism:
“Washington f**ked the entire (market). Paid a box (SS) $14 mil. F**king A.”
Again, perspective enters the fray at this juncture. Publicly, the Redskins don’t say much. Privately, there’s a belief things are changing in the nation’s capital.
During Joe Gibbs’ second stint, Washington was typically one of the league’s oldest clubs. Outside, aging free agents were brought in at enormous costs. Multiple sources believe Schaffer is the main reason why those deals have largely stopped, save for Collins.
Crowder and Smith both left this offseason for varying reasons, according to league conversations. Crowder was offered an extension before talks broke off. In Smith’s case, the Redskins believed they could replace him with a cheaper alternative. In the first round of April’s draft, they attempted to do so with Montez Sweat.
Washington has also re-signed a handful of current contributors in recent years including edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan, safety Deshazor Everett, right tackle Morgan Moses and others. Currently, they are working on locking up star guard Brandon Scherff, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
As for Cousins, the Redskins are internally adamant they made the right decision by acquiring Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs. The deal cost Washington a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller. Washington believes Smith is the better player, and was proving it before a catastrophic broken leg in Week 11 last season.
Now, the Redskins move forward with rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The No. 15 overall pick in this year’s draft, Haskins represents the future and a potential break in the ugliness for Washington’s national reputation.
If the youngster is great, Schaffer and an underrated scouting department build around a centerpiece. In the interim, perhaps Allen becomes less influential and Snyder writes checks and does little else.
Maybe then, agents will start praying their players go to Washington, not avoid it.
Top 10 primetime games in 2019
1. Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers, Week 11 (Mexico)
2. Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, Week 7
3. New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, Week 13
4. Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, Week 1
5. Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs, Week 5
6. Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns, Week 3
7. Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints, Week 15
8. New England Patriots at Houston Texans, Week 13
9. Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers, Week 6
10. Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings, Week 16
"“You guys saw me last year. I was horrible. A lot of ducks. It’s been better. A lot of tight spirals.”"
– Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on his improvement for this season
Jackson is both being brutally honest and astute in his self-assessment. As a rookie, the Heisman Trophy-winner led Baltimore to a 6-1 record over its final seven regular-season games before losing in the Wild Card game to the Chargers. However, Jackson only eclipsed 200 passing yards once, and threw for six touchdowns in those seven starts.
Perhaps no division winner from a year ago has lower expectations nationally than the Ravens. If Jackson is truly much-improved, there’s reason to think Baltimore will contend with the Steelers and Browns in the AFC North.
Each Friday, Verderame puts out a new mailbag covering all things NFL and then a little more. Make sure to submit your questions to him via Twitter or email!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t score on a kickoff return until their 32nd season. The Saints did so on the first play in their history.
Info learned this week
1. Holdouts across NFL deserve differing levels of attention
Not all holdouts are created equal. Here’s some proper perspective on the main ones.
The most high-profile is Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys. While Elliott wants more money, he has zero leverage. Dallas can simply wait until Aug. 6, which is the deadline for the reigning rushing champ to show up and still accrue a year towards free agency. With two years left on his rookie deal, the Cowboys aren’t going to negotiate unless Elliott would take a huge discount on his talent. Not going to happen.
In New Orleans, the Saints and star receiver Michael Thomas are trying to find middle ground. With the two sides having been negotiating for months, it appears a solution isn’t far off. While coming to terms on what is likely a record-setting deal is never easy, both sides are motivated to find an answer and move on. Thomas wants generational wealth. The Saints want their best player in camp.
Now for the ugly ones.
From all indications, the Chargers remain at odds with running back Melvin Gordon. Gordon is in the final year of his rookie contract and wants to be paid like an elite runner. However, Los Angeles has a legion of upcoming free agents in the next two seasons including Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Joey Bosa, Desmond King and others. The Chargers also love Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson as options in the backfield. For L.A., there’s no reason to pay Gordon top dollar.
Finally, Jadeveon Clowney and the Texans. Clowney is yet to sign his franchise tag, which keeps him from being fined during his holdout. According to a source, the Texans weren’t willing to pay Clowney a contract in the ballpark of DeMarcus Lawrence’s deal this spring. Now, with Brian Laine out as general manager, it’s uncertain where Houston’s braintrust stands on the issue. Ultimately, the only real expectation is Clowney will stay away for much of the summer absent a resolution.
2. Jags facing acrimony on defense with Ramsey, Ngakoue
The Jacksonville Jaguars are attempting to rebound after a brutally disappointing 2018 season. Things are off to an interesting start.
Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is holding out for a new contract, entering the final year of his deal. According to a source, it’s quite likely Ngakoue will play out this season and then be franchise tagged in 2020.
Additionally, cornerback Jalen Ramsey arrived at camp in a BRINKS truck with a hype man holding a bullhorn. The inference was clear. Pay me. The Jaguars have made clear Ramsey won’t be negotiated with until after this season, when his contract only has the fifth-year option remaining on it. The stalemate is clearly annoying the former All-Pro cornerback.
3. Mariota must be concerned after first week in Nashville
Marcus Mariota needs to have a career year to get a new contract in Tennessee. So far, he’s only being given more obstacles.
In the past week, the Titans have seen left tackle Taylor Lewan be suspended four games for violating the league’s PED policy. On Friday, both running back Derrick Henry and receiver A.J. Brown both left practice early. While neither issue is considered serious, it still takes away reps from a couple of cornerstones on an offense with a new coordinator in Arthur Smith.
If the Titans are going to contend in the AFC South with Houston and Indianapolis, the offense must take significant strides. Mariota may be poised to do exactly that in Year 5, but losing Lewan for a quarter of the season, combined with two key cogs missing practice, isn’t ideal.
4. T.J. Hockenson making big impression with Lions
There’s little buzz around Detroit this season. T.J. Hockenson is trying to change that.
Throughout the first week of training camps around the league, Hockenson has stood out among rookies. The No. 9 overall selection has drawn rave reviews for his athleticism and ability to make plays the red zone. For Matthew Stafford, it’s sweet relief after the offense struggled mightily inside the 20, ranking 24th in the league at 53.06 percent.
The Lions are trying to remake their offense behind a trio of dynamic youths in running back Kerryon Johnson, receiver Kenny Golladay and Hockenson. It’s extremely early, but the returns are positive thus far.
5. Giants’ troubles could spell quicker hook for Manning
The New York Giants are having a horrendous start to their season. Cue Daniel Jones’ music.
In only the first week of camp, New York has already lost a plethora of receivers to a variety of reasons. Golden Tate is suspended the first four games of the season for violating the PED policy. Sterling Shepard broke his left thumb and is out for at least a few weeks. Corey Coleman tore his ACL and will miss the entire year. It’s been ugly.
So what does this have to do with Eli Manning? The general feeling around OTAs and minicamp was Daniel Jones had been outperforming expectations. With head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman in dire need of better campaigns, going with Manning on a listless team is potentially football suicide. If Jones is inserted and plays even moderately well, there’s ample reason to keep the tandem around.
With so much upheaval in the receivers’ room, Jones might be inching closer to usurping Manning sooner than initially thought.
The Class of ’83 is regarded as the greatest quarterback crop in NFL history. John Elway went No. 1 overall to the Baltimore Colts, only to be traded days later to the Denver Broncos. Elway was followed by Todd Blackledge to the Chiefs at No. 7, easily the biggest bust of the group.
Four others would follow in the first round, all going to the AFC East. A pair of Hall of Famers went off the board in Jim Kelly to the Buffalo Bills and Dan Marino to the Miami Dolphins. Then there was Tony Eason to the Patriots and Ken O’Brien — of the powerhouse UC Davis — to the New York Jets. Incredibly, Marino was the last to be chosen, going with the opening round’s penultimate pick.
And to think, all of that talent would have collectively gone ringless if not for Elway’s final two seasons.
It’s extension season in the NFL. Keep an eye on Patriots guard Joe Thuney.
Thuney, 26, has quietly become one of the league’s best offensive lineman. According to a source, the Patriots have been approached by multiple teams inquiring about Thuney’s availability, but were told he’s a core piece.
Internally, the Patriots believe Thuney helped former left tackles Nate Solder and Trent Brown out significantly, helping them land huge money with the Giants and Oakland Raiders, respectively. Thus far, Solder has struggled in New York while Brown must live up to the largest contract for an offensive lineman in league history.
While a new deal isn’t imminent for Thuney, the talks are ongoing to keep him anchored in Foxborough throughout a second contract.
A stalwart at guard, Thuney is working in at tackle during the early portions of camp with second-year man Isaiah Wynn still recovering from a torn Achilles. The workload shouldn’t be crippling for Thuney, one of the smartest players in the game.
A fun story on the former third-round pick out of N.C. State… Entering the combine, Thuney was advised not to answer all. 50 questions on the Wonderlic test for fear he’d scare off teams with his intellect. Instead, he was instructed to answer only 39 questions, ensuring his score remained below 40. Thuney listened. He answered all 39 questions correctly.