Fresh off the draft, Ron Rivera was making the media rounds on Monday. One of his stops was on Chris Russell and Pete Medhurst’s show in the afternoon. He covered a variety of topics – it’s worth a listen below – but one that really caught my attention was what he plans to do in the coming week: Sign some veteran free agents. Having only signed one undrafted free agent, Jaret Patterson (RB), Rivera is now turning his sights to patching the rest of the team with vets:
“We have 4 more spots, and we didn’t fill those spots with college free agents. We’re going to look around, and we’re going to take a shot on a couple of guys that are out there. So we’re going to add through free agency, hopefully in the next week or so, as we start getting ready for OTAs.”
Here are 3 potential targets, as I see it.
Steven Nelson (CB)
Nelson isn’t going to come cheap, most likely – his previous contract with the Steelers was $8.5M/year – but there aren’t many teams left with the cap space to afford that this year. Washington is one of them.
Might Nelson have taken less with the Steelers? We may never know:
“It came down to me being traded, or being released, and I just want to make it very clear, to those out there who might not know or are assuming, that there was never a discussion with me being able to get take a pay cut,” Nelson explained. “I was never even given that opportunity to take a pay cut. It was either trade or release. I just want to clear that up.”
Why do I like Nelson? Well in 2019, he was PFF’s 6th highest rated man-coverage corner in the league. Nelson is 5’11”, 194 lbs and built in the same mold as William Jackson III and Benjamin St. Juste. If Rivera and Jack Del Rio are serious about transitioning to a more physical man-coverage scheme in the secondary, the 28-year old Nelson, on a 2-year contract, could be a perfect complement to the new cornerbacks on the roster. It would also very clearly free up Kendall Fuller to move into the slot, where he excels.
Nelson’s 2019 season flew under the radar, but by many metrics you look at, it was one of the better seasons of any cornerback in the NFL. His man coverage grade is one such metric. The Steelers are another team that doesn’t run a ton of man coverage (23rd highest rate in the NFL last season), but Nelson played well when he was asked to man up. He allowed just 12 of the 28 balls thrown into his coverage to be completed, of which just eight were first downs. Minkah Fitzpatrick gets a lot of recognition for his impact on the secondary ─ and deservedly so ─ but Nelson had quite the impact himself in his first year.
Josh Bynes (LB)
By drafting Jamin Davis in the first round and Shaka Toney in the 7th, Washington has taken clear steps to improving the speed and athleticism of its linebacking corps. That having been said, most would agree that some additional linebacking depth would be welcome.
Bynes is an interesting case. Now 32, Bynes is playing the best football of his career after about a decade in the league. Like William Jackson, he played on the terrible Bengals’ defense last season. Yet, he had a career year.
“For me, it’s just to continue playing this game. Let me go out there and continue to show that I can play this game to the fullest potential. This’ll be my 11th season coming up, and I still have a lot left in the tank and I want to play as long as I can. I want a team to have faith in me knowing that I can go out there and play each and every game like it’s my last. And I showed that this past season in all 16 [games] and stood strong. I know I’m capable of doing that this coming season and going forward another season, so I just can’t wait to finally figure that opportunity out either with Cincy or with another organization in the next few weeks,” Bynes said.
Bynes, who was on a 1-year, $1.65M deal with the Bengals was not re-signed, but he’s certainly a guy I think could be worth taking a $2M/yr one or two year flyer one.
Mycole Pruitt (TE)
My initial instinct is that with the drafting of John Bates, the tight end room is full. But, if it’s not, blocking tight end extraordinaire, Mycole Pruitt, would be my target. I’ve already written about him elsewhere, but I’m not sure that we could do better than Pruitt as a TE3 on this team. Pruitt is only 29, and had a higher PFF grade than Jacob Hollister, Kyle Rudolph, and Trey Burton last year.
With Logan Thomas, John Bates, and Pruitt on the roster, we would have the full complement of skills, and two great mentors for Bates to help him hone his receiving and blocking skills.
[Pruitt] signed with the Titans in 2018 and hasn’t looked back since. He’s an underrated member of this high scoring offense. He plays an unheralded role. Pruitt does the dirty work and rarely gets credit for it. He’s an underrated pass catcher that often takes advantage of the opportunities he gets in this area, but where Pruitt really shines is in the run game where he’s often used as a sixth offensive linemen.
Pruitt was a free agent last offseason as well, and returned on a one-year deal. Prior to re-signing with the Titans, Derrick Henry ran into his Pruitt’s agent at a public event. Henry told him, and I quote, “Make sure Pruitt is back in Tennessee. I can’t do what I do without him.”
Which of these three players would you most like to see Ron Rivera sign this week?
Steven Nelson (CB) – $5M/yr
Josh Bynes (LB) – $2M/yr
Mycole Pruitt (TE) – $2M/yr
None of them
300 votes total