The Washington Redskins made headlines around the NFL on Friday by releasing a pair of veterans in cornerback Josh Norman and wide receiver Paul Richardson.
Both players signed with the Redskins via free agency in recent years but, for differing reasons, underachieved in Washington. Ultimately, new head coach Ron Rivera and his staff decided it was time to move on.
Rivera elaborated on these roster moves Monday night during a live taping of "Check Please" at D.C. Prime in Ashburn. Speaking with Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael and Redskins.com's Gabe Henderson, Rivera explained why they were released, the timing of it all and what it means for each position group.
"As we evaluated our roster and looked at the age of our players and what we were trying to establish and build, this just felt like now was the best opportunity," Rivera said. "It's an opportunity to establish a new core, a new group, a new nucleus of players, and that's why we did it."
The coaching staff began its in-depth evaluation of the entire roster Feb. 10, and what it found was that the Redskins have several young wide receivers and cornerbacks capable of contributing.
Terry McLaurin was one of the best rookie wideouts in the NFL last season, while fellow rookies Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims Jr. ended 2019 as starters. In the secondary, 2017 draft pick Fabian Moreau and rookie Jimmy Moreland played well alongside veteran Quinton Dunbar at the end of the year. The Redskins also have Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson, both of whom played as rookies before missing most of last season with injuries.
With these pieces in place, the Redskins parted ways with Norman and Richardson. The move not only created around $15 million in salary cap space but represented the faith the coaching staff has in the team's bevy of young talent.
"It should be indicating to these young players that we believe in what we've seen so far," Rivera said. "We believe in your possible development and we want to give you an opportunity to develop, and that's a big part of why we make roster moves now."
The timing also benefits the players released, Rivera said, because it gives them plenty of time to find somewhere else to continue their NFL careers.
Rivera said he has a tremendous amount of respect for Norman and that he was a big reason the Carolina Panthers went 15-1 and advanced to Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season. Norman made his lone Pro Bowl appearance and earned first-team all-pro that year after recording four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), forcing three fumbles and recovering two more.
Norman did not have as much success over his past four seasons with the Redskins. As one of the highest-paid corners in the NFL, he recorded seven interceptions, eight forced fumbles and 43 pass breakups in 58 games (54 starts). And by the end of his tenure, Norman watched from the sidelines after he was benched for unspecified reasons starting Week 11.
Rivera still has high hopes for his former standout, whom he referred to as a "veteran guy with a lot of football left to play." It just wasn't the right fit anymore in Washington.
"It's just that now for us -- new regime, new coaching staff, new players, young players -- we've got to give them an opportunity to grow and change."
Friday's transactions are likely the start of what's sure to be an eventful offseason for the Redskins. Several key players are set to become free agents, while other veterans could face the same fate as Norman and Richardson. There's also the NFL Scouting Combine and free agency, both of which will better prepare Rivera and his staff for what to do with the potentially franchise-changing No. 2 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Whatever moves the Redskins end up making, they'll do so with a singular objective in mind: to create a sustainable winning culture for as long as possible.
"We're going to do things the right way," Rivera said. "Things are going to change. It's going to be different, it's going to be hard, it's not going to be easy. Just because I came here as a new head coach doesn't mean things change automatically. Things are going to get changed, they're going to change eventually, they're going to grow, it's going to get better, and eventually, if we do it the right way, we have a chance to win."