The Redskins have so many needs right now, it’s hard to rank them, but somewhere near the top would have to be secondary help.
Josh Norman just returned from a two-game absence, Bashaud Breeland has been beat up on and off throughout the season, and Su’a Cravens and DeAngelo Hall are out for the season. Others, including D.J. Swearinger, Deshazor Everett, Montae Nicholson and Stefan McClure have been banged up, as well.
It might not be as big of a problem as the offensive line right now, but it’s been a significant issue throughout the season.
Meanwhile, one of the few positive developments for Washington this season has been the breakout of running back Chris Thompson, who is ninth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (231 yards rushing, 442 yards receiving) despite serving primarily as a change-of-pace back.
Thompson is tied for eighth among running backs with 31 receptions this season, and he leads all running backs with 442 receiving yards — more than 60 more than any other back.
Rob Kelley has been decent at best this season, averaging 3.8 yards per carry on 44 rushes, and rookie Samaje Perine has shown flashes at time but has mostly been unimpressive, managing just 3.0 yards per carry on a team-high 55 rushes.
A workhorse back would be a nice luxury for the Redskins, but considering Jay Gruden’s notorious reluctance to run the ball — he’s gotten better this season, but Washington is still just 19th in rush attempts this season (with 182, including only 33 over the past two games) — and the many injuries to the secondary and offensive line, it hardly seems like a priority.
Which brings us to this trade suggested by Pro Football Focus.
The trade: The Redskins send Bashaud Breeland to the San Francisco 49ers for running back Carlos Hyde.
First off, the Redskins, as mentioned, need so many things before they need a running back. Like, so many things, including another cornerback. PFF notes Quinton Dunbar’s “surprisingly solid play” as reason to make Breeland expendable, which, well, alright. Dunbar has been fine, sure, but he’s also been taken advantage of plenty of times, and the depth behind Dunbar is atrocious.
Also, if Breeland is out of the picture, Dunbar’s assignments get tougher. And if Norman goes down with injury again, then the Redskins are suddenly using Quinton Dunbar as their top cornerback. So that’s something to think about.
Second, Hyde is in the last season of his contract. Breeland is also a free agent after this season, but Washington is presumably hoping to re-sign him. If it trades him away, pretty good chance he doesn’t come back. Hyde, on the other hand, is a possibility for Washington in free agency as is.
PFF noted the following, prior to the Redskins’ Sunday loss to the Dallas Cowboys:
“Breeland is another Redskin with an expiring contract not expected back for 2018, and the surprisingly solid play of Quinton Dunbar in relief of an injured Josh Norman (who looks to be on pace to return to action this weekend) gives Washington an opportunity to get compensation for a deal now, as opposed to waiting for 2019 compensatories to be awarded.”
The obvious flaw in that logic is Hyde also being on an expiring contract, which is not mentioned in the hypothetical trade analysis.
Here’s another line from the breakdown: “And with QB Kirk Cousins likely on his way out of town at season’s end, the time is now to make a push for a true playmaker at the position.”
We’ve now learned that Cousins and Breeland are likely not playing in Washington next season — a fair prediction — but Hyde, for whatever reason, is likely to be.
Hyde has also played in just 20 of 32 games over the previous two seasons, and running backs don’t get better or more durable as they get older.
Also, and this cannot be stressed enough, why would the Redskins trade one of their few healthy assets on defense for a running back with eight games left on his contract? They currently have three healthy running backs, and apparently felt so confident in their running back depth that they waived fourth-stringer Mack Brown to make room for offensive line help.
All this isn’t to say the Redskins should not trade Breeland. They have no reason to force anything, of course, as he’s having a much better season than he has the previous two years, and the Redskins don’t exactly have defensive backs to spare. But there is something to be said for getting assets for a player on an expiring deal.
That said, why would you target a player on an expiring deal at a position you don’t really need much help at? And it’s not as if Hyde is an elite back. His best season was 2016, when he finished 14th in total rushing yards, 11th in yards per carry and 23rd in yards per carry.
When healthy, Hyde is probably a top-15 running back. But he’s never been healthy for a full season, and despite being healthy for all eight games so far this season, Hyde is just 14th in rushing yards.
In other words: How does this hypothetical trade make any sense for Washington?
*For what it’s worth, immediately before posting, it was reported that San Francisco had traded a second-round pick to the New England Patriots for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.