Ron Rivera says WFT's free agency haul 'freed ourselves up' for NFL Draft

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Ethan Cadeaux
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Rivera: WFT's free agency haul 'freed ourselves up' for Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Football Team pulled in a tremendous haul in free agency, addressing multiple positions of major need on both sides of the football.

Now, with the bulk of free agency in the past and the 2021 NFL Draft less than two weeks away, head coach Ron Rivera believes Washington's free agency moves will allow them to attack the draft with more freedom than they otherwise would have had.

"I think what our front office did and what we were able to do in free agency really helped us," Rivera said during a Zoom media session on Friday. "I think we freed ourselves up because of what they did."

Washington entered the offseason with its biggest need being at the quarterback position. While they have yet to find their long-term solution, Washington found its temporary starter in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

In addition to quarterback, wide receiver was a pressing demand for Ron Rivera's club entering free agency, as the team desperately needed to find a quality No. 2 wideout to play opposite of rising star Terry McLaurin.

On the second day of the negotiating window, Washington agreed to terms with former Panther Curtis Samuel, a dynamic and versatile pass-catcher that can elevate Scott Turner's offense in a variety of ways. Then, one week later, Washington signed Adam Humphries -- a solid slot receiver who played his best professional football catching passes from Fitzpatrick in Tampa -- to a one-year deal.

But perhaps Washington's best free-agent signing came on the defensive side of the ball, as the team signed cornerback William Jackson III to a three-year deal. Between Jackson and Kendall Fuller, Washington will have one of the best 1-2 cornerback tandems in the NFL playing behind an already elite defensive front.

"This is a dynamic football player," Rivera said on Jackson earlier this month. "We’re very, very happy to have him.”

Quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback were all positions many pundits thought Washington could address in the first round prior to free agency. After Washington's free-agent signings of Fitzpatrick, Samuel and Jackson, Rivera and his staff will no longer feel the pressure of needing to use a first-round pick on one of those respective spots on the field.

While Washington addressed multiple places of need in free agency, they didn't address all of them. Jack Del Rio's defense could still use a major upgrade at linebacker (or even two), while finding a cornerstone left tackle remains a must as well.

But, by filling those other gaps in free agency, Rivera and his staff can target a left tackle like Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw, a stout linebacker like Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, or even draft the best player available at No. 19.

"I think [front office executives] Martin [Mayhew] and Marty [Hurney] and their guys really helped put us in a position where we've got to really look at drafting best player available, but always keeping in mind what we feel the true need is," Rivera said.