- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2020

When the Washington Redskins held their free agency meetings this offseason, vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith and his staff presented coach Ron Rivera with the names that could be available. As they spent hours mapping out their plan, the Redskins determined what players they wanted to pursue when free agency opened.

But, as Rivera recalled this session at the NFL scouting combine late last month, he also offered a reality check.

“To think we can fill all those holes at once and try and do that,” Rivera said, “You’re not going to get enough of the quality guys.”

Rivera said he’d rather pursue high-caliber free agents than spend recklessly to fill needs. A month later, the Redskins have stuck to that approach during the first week of free agency — even as they whiffed on their pursuit of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper and missed out on other big names like tight end Austin Hooper and cornerback Byron Jones.

With the exception of cornerback Kendall Fuller (four years, $40 million), Washington has relied on bargain-bin signings,

On Thursday, the team added former Detroit Lions tight end Logan Thomas, who caught just 16 passes for 173 yards last season, and former Bears right tackle Cornelius Lucas on a two-year deal worth $5.3 million.

Before that, the Redskins brought in names like running back J.D. McKissic (two years, $3.25 million), linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (one year, $2.95 million) and safety Sean Davis (one year, $5 million).

Those names don’t come with the same buzz as a Cooper or a Jones.

But they’re low-cost deals as Rivera tries to reshape a roster that went 3-13 last season.

Most of Washington’s moves have come on the defensive side. In switching to a 4-3 scheme, the Redskins have added players designed to fit Rivera’s and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s vision.

The most telling example was bringing on Thomas Davis, the former Carolina Panthers captain who turns 37 this weekend.

Davis may not be the athletic freak he once was, but he knows the type of culture Rivera wants to build. The two spent eight years together with the Panthers before Thomas signed with the Los Angeles Chargers last offseason. In 2018, Rivera called Davis a “special locker room guy.”

Of the Redskins’ 10 signings, six have been for defense. The moves mostly add depth, though Fuller, Davis and Jon Bostic figure to start.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Sean Davis, who the Redskins reportedly view as a “steal,” also figures to compete the starting free safety spot.

In January, Del Rio said the Redskins’ defense had a lot of room for improvement.

“In our room, we’ll set our agenda,” Del Rio said. “To me, there’s a mindset that’s a part of that. We’ll respect everyone. We’ll fear no one. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Finding versatile players also appears to be one of the Redskins’ top priorities. With the Kansas City Chiefs, for instance, Fuller lined up inside, outside and at free safety. McKissic, meanwhile, can serve as a receiving threat and punt returner. Pierre-Louis is considered to be valuable on special teams, but did a solid job filling in for an injured Roquan Smith last year in Chicago.

At the combine, Rivera said position versatility is key.

“I believe in it,” Rivera said. “I think if a guy can play, and I always talk about offensive lineman, because if they can go tackle, guard, guard, center, center, tackle, you’ve got something special there. Guys that do give you an option to move guys around, but also you won’t have to tip your hand.”

In the months since he was hired, Rivera has said repeatedly he wants to rebuild Washington as quickly as he can, but at the same time, “we’re here to try and do it the right way.”

For Rivera, that apparently means taking a patient approach to begin free agency.

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