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Head Coach Ron Rivera Explains How The Redskins Used Free Agency To Fill Needs

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For weeks, fans wondered about the reasoning behind some of Redskins' free agent signings. Why didn't they sign any premier players like wide receiver Amari Cooper or tight end Austin Hooper? Why did they remake their secondary? Were these additions more about depth, or will a majority of these players compete for starting jobs?

Head coach Ron Rivera answered all of these questions (and then some) during a video conference with the local media on April 7.

In one of his first interviews since free agency kicked off March 18, Rivera explained the Redskins pursued Cooper "very hard all the way up to the very end." Ultimately, Cooper re-signed with the Cowboys. The Redskins were also interested in Hooper, but not as much as the public perceived. The Cleveland Browns made Hooper the NFL's highest paid tight end, something Rivera said the Redskins "most certainly weren't prepared to do."

The Redskins' free agency approach was simple, according to Rivera: fill needs. And by adding 13 players, trading for another, re-signing three more and franchise tagging Brandon Scherff, he believes they were able to do just that.

Rivera then went on to highlight several players by name. Here's a breakdown of why they were signed and where he sees them fitting in.

LB Thomas Davis

First and foremost, Rivera needed a player who understood the culture he was trying to instill with the Redskins.

Enter linebacker Thomas Davis Sr., who spent eight seasons with Rivera in Carolina and, despite just turning 37 years old, led the Los Angeles Chargers in tackles last season without missing a game.

"I thought he'd come in and help out with a little bit of that veteran leadership on the defensive side. They are a very young group of guys," Rivera said of Davis. "But more so, more importantly for me is a guy that can help share my ideas, what my belief in culture is, and I think that can help get the message across."

MLB Jon Bostic

Jon Bostic, another veteran linebacker, appealed to the new coaching staff because of his leadership and popularity among teammates in addition to his production. After signing with the Redskins last May, the 28-year-old journeyman started all 16 games and finished tied for second on the team with a career-high 105 total tackles.

Rivera sees Bostic fitting in nicely in the middle of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's 4-3 defense.

"He was the MIKE linebacker for these guys for the most part," Rivera said of Bostic. "I believe he has the kind of tools to help lead that group."

CB Kendall Fuller

Two words encapsulate why the Redskins brought back Kendall Fuller: positional flexibility.

Fuller, who played the past two seasons in Kansas City, served as the Chiefs No. 1 corner in 2018 and then played as a hybrid safety-corner towards the end of last season. Before that, he was one of the NFL's best slot corners.

Those experiences will certainly benefit Fuller during his second go-around in Washington.

"We feel good about him as a corner and as a nickel for us as well," Rivera said. "We think he's got some very good value for us as far as we're concerned."

FS Sean Davis

The Redskins released starting free safety Montae Nicholson, and Rivera believes Sean Davis will compete to be his replacement.

"He's a guy that we think can match very well with the guys that we have in the secondary already," Rivera said. "We feel very strongly about him."

Rivera went on to compare Davis to former NFL free safety Mike Mitchell, who signed a one-year deal with the Panthers when Rivera was there in 2013. In 14 starts, Mitchell set career highs with two forced fumbles, 3.5 sacks and four interceptions while racking up 66 tackles. That offseason, Mitchell signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"That's kind of what we're hoping for with a guy like Sean," Rivera said of Davis, who started 31 games between 2017 and 2018 before missing nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury. "Just the kind of guy who's going to come in and be a part of what you're trying to do and can grow into it. And hopefully, we get him resigned and get him taken care of as we go forward."

CB Ronald Darby

Rivera rattled off the characteristics that made Ronald Darby a desirable acquisition.

"He's very quick, he's got a quick twitch, he plays with vision," Rivera said. "His anticipation is tremendous."

Rivera acknowledged Darby's injury history -- he missed a combined 20 games the past three seasons -- but said he's someone the Redskins are "really excited about because of the success he's had." After all, Darby was Pro Football Focus' Defensive Rookie of the Year with the Buffalo Bills in 2015. Plus, he played well when healthy in 2017 and 2018.

"We just think he creates real positive matchups for us," Rivera said. "We like what we've done in terms of bringing him in and bringing [Kendall] Fuller in as guys that can match up and move with guys that we currently have on the roster as well. We feel good about that group."

QB Kyle Allen

Rivera first addressed the trade for Kyle Allen during an interview with a Charlotte-based radio station on March 24. During that conversation, Rivera brought up Allen's familiarity with the coaching staff and with offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system. Rivera also described Allen as a humble young quarterback with a strong arm who has already experienced some success last season with the Panthers.

In his conference call with the local media, Rivera elaborated on Allen's character as it pertains to the upcoming quarterback competition with Dwayne Haskins Jr. Whether Allen ends up starting or backing up Haskins, Rivera expects Allen's attitude to be the same.

"I just know what kind of person he is, and just feel that he's the kind of guy that's going to go into this, he's not threatened by anything. What he's really concerned about is doing the best job he can," Rivera said.

"He's the right kind of person for that room, and that's what I felt really strongly about and why we were able to make the deal with Carolina to bring him in. He's got that real good sense about him, that being part of something is better than being an individual."

TE Logan Thomas

The only No. 1 tight end Rivera has ever had is Greg Olsen, who was one of the best pass-catchers at his position during his time with the Panthers from 2011-19. He's a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time second-team All-Pro and the first tight end to have three straight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards.

The Redskins do not have a Greg Olsen on their roster, but they believe Logan Thomas has shown glimpses of having that type of athletic ability.

"Pete Hoener, our tight end coach, felt very strongly about [Thomas'] abilities, mostly because he thought he was a very smart and savvy football player, he's a tremendous athlete and he's just learning and getting the position right now," Rivera said of Thomas, who made 16 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown in 2019.

"Remember he is a converted quarterback, a guy who has a skillset that is a little unique because of his understanding of the way offenses work."

TE Richard Rodgers

From 2014-17, Richard Rodgers excelled with the Green Bay Packers playing with Aaron Rodgers, who is widely considered one of the best quarterbacks of the past decade. According to Rivera, Aaron Rodgers always thought highly of his former tight end.

"I got to know Aaron a little bit," Rivera said, "and one thing Aaron always thought that this was the kind of guy who was a safety valve, a go-to guy who just knew how to get himself open and in position."

Rivera also noted that whenever Green Bay played Carolina, Richard Rodgers played well. In three-career games against the Panthers -- all with the Packers -- Rodgers made 10 receptions for 97 yards and three touchdowns. His total catches and receiving yards are the most against a non-NFC North team, while his three scores are tied for the most of his career against any opponent.

"This offense is a multi-personnel offense, we're not going to just sit there in eleven personnel," Rivera said. "We're going to go back and forth. We're going to go with one tight end, two tight ends, three tight ends type of offense, so having multiple tight ends on your roster is going to be very beneficial to you. These guys we all believe are going to fit."

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