“Winning” the free agency period is often overrated, until it isn’t. As far as having a successful offseason goes, Washington is coming up aces.
After signing mercenary QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal and bringing in underrated CB William Jackson earlier this week, Washington dipped back into the free agent pool by signing Curtis Samuel to a three-year, $34.5 million contract.
On a per year basis, Samuel will be making barely more ($11.5M/year) than recently signed-Patriot Nelson Agholor ($11M). Whom would you rather have?
The Samuel-to-Washington connection runs deep. Apparently, HC Ron Rivera tried to trade for Samuel last season, but the Panthers balked. Rivera drafted Samuel in Carolina and Washington’s OC Scott Turner was a part of game-planning for that offense back in 2018-19 when his dad Norv Turner was OC of the team. And finally, Terry McLaurin were college running mates at Ohio State (in 2015-16).
On paper, McLaurin, Samuel, Logan Thomas, Antonio Gibson, and J.D. McKissic is an eclectic group of weapons for Fitzmagic to work with in 2021. Combined with an elite defense, Washington is set up very well to win games and might just be the favorites over Dallas to win the weakest division in football.
For fantasy, the hope is that Washington uses Samuel as the hybrid-type player that Matt Rhule and Joe Brady envisioned last season and not the miscast deep threat-version the Panthers tried to do in 2019 when Turner was the quarterbacks coach. Granted, Kyle Allen was chucking bricks at him and was the worst starting QB in the NFL that year — but it underscored just how important coaching is for specific players.
Samuel’s usage in 2019 vs. 2020
|2019 - Average Depth of Target||14.8 yards (11th-highest out of 75 WRs)|
|2020 - aDOT||7.5 yards (9th-lowest out of 77 WRs)|
|2019 - Deep Targets (15+ yards)||42 (43% were catchable)|
|2020 - Deep Targets||21 (90% were catchable)|
|2019 - Slot Snaps (%)||28%|
|2020 - Slot Snaps||72%|
The difference in production and efficiency was enormous.
Samuel’s production in 2019 vs. 2020
|2019 - Receiving||105 targets, 54/627/6, WR36 in fantasy|
|2020 - Receiving||97 targets, 77/851/3, WR23|
|2019 - Rushing||19 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD|
|2020 - Rushing||41 carries, 200 yards, 2 TDs|
|2019 - Rec. Yards Gained per Route Run||0.97 (last out of 53 WRs)|
|2020 - YPRR||1.93 (22nd-of-55 WRs)|
Hopefully, Turner learned from the past and uses Samuel close to the 2020 version we saw.
Samuel is a fantastic compliment to this offense because defenses won’t just be able to key in McLaurin as the team’s only legitimate threat. We’ll see Samuel used in a variety of ways and if he does get more slot usage and shallow targets, it could spell trouble for Logan Thomas. Last year, Thomas was primarily targeted on short/intermediate routes as his average depth of target was just 7.7 yards downfield. And he wasn’t particularly efficient despite seeing 105 targets (third-most among TEs). Thomas’ 670 yards ranked seventh-most and his 68% catch rate ranked 20th.
While I’m going to be all-in on McLaurin in the third- and fourth-round of drafts this spring/summer, I think Samuel might be a candidate to get overdrafted a bit if the hype gets out of hand. Unless you’re a true stud like DeAndre Hopkins or Stefon Diggs, receivers changing teams often see a dip in production in the first year on their new team. That could especially be the case for Samuel since his production is so dependent on the types of looks he sees.