Free agency started slowly for the Redskins. As other NFL teams burst into the initial hours of the open negotiating window, Washington instead agreed to terms on a handful of modest signings.
That isn’t to say the Redskins were simply watching from afar; the team came close to reaching an agreement with star wide receiver Amari Cooper, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation, before he agreed to re-sign with the Dallas Cowboys for a reported five years and $100 million.
Not long after Cooper said no, Washington agreed to a four-year deal with cornerback Kendall Fuller on Monday night. The versatile defensive back played the first two years of his career with Washington before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2018 deal for quarterback Alex Smith. Multiple reports said Fuller’s contract will be worth $40 million.
The Redskins had come to agreements with two other players earlier Monday, bringing back linebacker Jon Bostic on a two-year, $6.6 million contract and reaching a three-year agreement with Atlanta guard Wes Schweitzer, multiple people with knowledge of the situation said.
On Tuesday, they added more linebacker depth, reaching an agreement with Kevin Pierre-Louis, a person with knowledge of the situation said. Pierre-Louis, who has started four games over six years with the Seattle Seahawks, Chiefs, New York Jets and Chicago Bears, adds versatility as new coach Ron Rivera reshapes the Redskins’ defense.
And there seemed to be the possibility of more to come, with the Redskins continuing to let left tackle Trent Williams look for a trade and the Carolina Panthers announcing they are letting quarterback Cam Newton seek a trade. Newton, who in an Instagram post denied requesting a trade, has been linked to the Redskins because of his relationship with Rivera, who coached him for almost all of his nine-year career and has been an advocate of Newton’s. By midday Tuesday, with Carolina close to an agreement with former New Orleans quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, it appeared likely that the Panthers would trade or release Newton.
The Fuller deal shows the Redskins view him as a core piece of the defense during this rebuild. The question is where the Redskins will play him. While Fuller plays mostly in the slot — 313 of his 498 snaps last year were there, according to Pro Football Focus — he can provide defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio flexibility as he builds the secondary. Fuller lined up for 25 snaps at outside cornerback and 40 at free safety last season.
The 25-year-old fortifies a secondary in need of depth. Fuller probably will remain primarily in the slot cornerback position if Quinton Dunbar, who has requested a trade, remains on the outside opposite Fabian Moreau, who progressed last season. Fuller’s arrival could bump Jimmy Moreland, seen as a steal in the seventh round of last year’s draft, to the fourth cornerback position with a chance to develop.
The Fuller signing, in a way, helps close the loop on the Redskins’ trade for Smith. They gave up Fuller and a 2018 third-round pick — Kansas City traded the selection to Cincinnati, which chose linebacker Malik Jefferson — for the quarterback. Fuller, at first, stepped into a big role for the Chiefs, starting 15 games in 2018. But his production slipped last season as he missed five games with a thumb injury. He appeared in 11 games, starting four. He bounced back in the Super Bowl, though, when he emerged with a crucial pass breakup late in the fourth quarter to help seal the Chiefs’ victory against the San Francisco 49ers.
The deal was a homecoming in more ways than one for Fuller, who is a Baltimore native and Our Lady of Good Counsel High graduate.
The Redskins also had some interest in former Panthers cornerback James Bradberry before deciding the cost was too high, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. He went on to reach a reported three-year, $45 million deal with the New York Giants.