The Washington Redskins hope Sunday won’t be their last game, but that scenario remains a possibility given that they haven’t clinched a playoff spot heading into the regular season finale against the New York Giants.
The speculation on whether quarterback Kirk Cousins or wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon will return next season has dragged on all year, but the Redskins have 18 other pending free agents. Some will return because Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan puts emphasis on retaining his players. For others, Sunday could be their last time in a Redskins uniform.
“If I said no, I’d be lying,” running back Chris Thompson said when asked whether he has thought about his status as a restricted free agent during a contract year. “Yes, from time to time, it has been on my mind. Just all the time, effort and everything that I’ve put in here, it does cross my mind sometimes because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I would love to be here and be here for years to come.”
Thompson is among a handful of future free agents who have helped their cases to remain in Washington. The fifth-round pick in 2013 was plagued with injuries during his first three years, but Thompson hasn’t missed a game in 2016 and has been an effective third-down back with 663 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.
The 26-year-old is one four restricted free agents this offseason, along with inside linebacker Will Compton and tackle Ty Nsekhe. There’s value in re-signing Thompson, but offseason uncertainty quickly can turn a logical assumption to an afterthought.
Compton, a defensive captain in his first full season as a starter, is second on the team with 103 tackles. Meanwhile, Nsekhe, 31, has a unique situation among Washington’s free agents. He started a career-high four games at left tackle during Trent Williams’s suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and played well in the Pro Bowl player’s absence.
The Redskins can never have enough tackles, but they already are set with Williams and Morgan Moses as their starters. Nsekhe proved he is capable of starting in the NFL, but he likely won’t receive that opportunity full time in Washington.
“The opportunities that I had, of course it came in unfortunate circumstances, but at the same time, everything happens for a reason,” Nsekhe said. “That’s how I look at life. So for the fact for that to happen and me get the opportunity, all I can think of that is that’s a blessing.”
The Redskins signed a number of veterans to one-year deals during the offseason. Some, such as tight end Vernon Davis and defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, have played more than initially anticipated. Davis, 32, has 534 receiving yards and two touchdowns as the second tight end, while Hood, 29, has played in all 15 games with a sack and two passes defended.
For others, the vision didn’t pan out for either side. Outside linebacker Junior Galette tore his Achilles’ tendon for the second straight year. Safety Donte Whitner signed with the Redskins before Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens. Although he made nine starts, the 31-year-old didn’t make a significant impact and was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
Cornerback Greg Toler had an impressive training camp to secure a roster spot, but the Washington native has made just one start this season. The 31-year-old has been slotted behind Norman, Bashaud Breeland and Quinton Dunbar at outside cornerback and hasn’t made much of an impact on the field, with two passes defended in 15 games.
“It was expected if we didn’t get nothing done here, I knew that there may be a possibility that you may be going somewhere else,” Toler said of signing a one-year deal after spending his first six NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts . “It comes with the territory. I’m about to be nine years in now. You kind of get used to it. Well, not used to it, but you just expect it. I know what I can do on the field. I always joke with people, ‘As long as these feet work . . .’ ”
The pending free agents still on the active roster will be fighting to ensure that they get at least one more game next week. If the Redskins don’t make the playoffs, the offseason begins with the uncertainty of which uniform they will wear in 2017.
“When it’s game time, I don’t think about it,” Thompson said. “It’s not on my mind. But I know, depending on the result of this game, it’ll probably weigh heavy on me whenever our season ends. That’ll be something that’ll be heavy on my mind.
“I’m just hoping that tape [this year] keeps me here and secure here. It’s a business. When that comes about, we’ll just handle it when it comes around.”