Washington can add some key contributors throughout the second wave of free agency.
The Washington Commanders are done with the month of April, specifically the NFL Draft, and now have an opportunity to add some key depth pieces on both sides of the football.
The second wave of free agency has been the bread and butter for Washington under Ron Rivera, with the organization finding diamonds in the rough in back-to-back offseasons up to this point.
Despite addressing several needs over the weekend, calling the names of guys like Jahan Dotson, Phidarian Mathis, and others, the Burgundy and Gold still have a plethora of holes to fill if they’re looking to be a much-improved unit in 2022.
There are numerous free agents available that can provide a multitude of needs for this team both on the field and in the locker room. Culture and scheme fit matter most to head coach Ron Rivera, so with that in mind, these options may not be the “sexiest”, but they are realistic.
For starters, it’s been noted several times by beat reporters covering this organization that the Commanders are looking to add a veteran presence at EDGE in particular.
The first free agent here will be one that not only can provide that presence, but still has juice left to squeeze. He’s a former Buffalo Bill that will not command, no pun intended, but he will not command a high salary or a sizeable amount of playing time.
1. Jerry Hughes, Defensive End
As a 12-year veteran in the NFL, Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes has had a strong NFL career up to this point. Although never making a Pro-Bowl, Hughes has contributed year in and year out, with 58 sacks, 82 tackles for loss, and nearly 130 QB hits for his career. Now at the latter stage of his time in the league, Hughes is coming off his lowest sack total and snap count since arriving in Buffalo. It’s looking like there will be a divorce in Nickel City, and the Commanders should be the team that benefits most from this breakup.
Hughes may not be a double-digit sack guy anymore, but he’s still more than capable of fulfilling a low-volume rotational role off the edge. In 2021, Hughes tied for 12th in the NFL in pass-rush win rate among qualified defensive linemen, while finishing 18th in pass-rushing productivity. Despite lower snap counts and raw statistical outputs, Hughes has remained one of the most consistent edge rushers in all of football. Now, as a 12-year veteran, Hughes has also grown into a leadership role as his time in Buffalo has progressed.
Lastly, with his market value according to Spotrac at $3.3-million annually, he will not be the kind of asset that you have to pay off with a six-year loan. Heading into his 13th NFL season, Jerry Hughes can not only fill a role in the locker room that the Commanders are looking for, but he still has more than enough in the tank to compete with the league’s best across from him.
2. Chris Harris Jr., Cornerback
Washington is in dire need of a slot corner heading into 2022. The Kendall Fuller experiment did not work on the inside last season, in addition, the Commanders have a shopping cart full of perimeter corners yet nobody that thrives on the interior. Chris Harris Jr. is not the elite inside defender he once was, but he’s continued to stay afloat as a consistent contributor on defense as he enters his age-33 season. Last season, Harris allowed a passer rating of 95.1 when targeted in coverage, while holding his opponents to fewer than 25 receiving yards in 11 of his 14 games played. He concluded his 2021 campaign by picking off one pass and forcing three pass breakups.
As a short-term option for Washington in the slot, Harris is not only a veteran that’s seen it all in the league, but he’s still able to have a positive impact on ball games. For the Burgundy and Gold, adding an immediate starter in Chris Harris Jr. in the slot would provide much-needed help at a position that’s one of the weakest on the roster.
3. Chester Rogers, Wide Reciever
The announcement of DeAndre Carter leaving Washington to find sunny days in Los Angeles caused quite a flurry in the hearts of Washington fans. With the selection of Jahan Dotson, both Ron Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew mentioned how Dotson could also provide return-man abilities. Personally, I’m not buying that. I think Washington will not use their first-round pick to return kicks and punts, similarly to how they originally planned to use Terry McLaurin in a Special Teams role when he was drafted in 2019, but after seeing how immensely talented he was, that idea sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
Unfortunately, that still leaves Washington with a hole in the return game, but look no further than Chester Rogers to fill that void. Rogers is coming off one of his better years in terms of production as a Wide Receiver for the Titans, catching 30 passes for 301 yards and one score. His value truly comes in the return game, as he returned 30 punts and 14 kickoffs for nearly 600 yards. Rogers may be a WR5/6 for this Washington offense, but that’s not why they’ll bring him in. In comparison to the DeAndre Carter situation, Washington is looking for a high IQ return man, and it’ll be looked at as a bonus if he can contribute as a pass-catcher. Rogers can come in immediately for Washington and take over kick and punt return duties while fulfilling a low-volume role out alongside the Commanders’ multitude of Wide Reciever options.