Veteran cuts aren’t uncommon in the immediate wake of the NFL draft. Players and contracts that seem fine in March suddenly look expendable in May, after a potential replacement gets drafted in April. Such was the case with Washington offensive tackle Morgan Moses.
A six-season, 96-game starter at right tackle for Washington, Moses was the longest-tenured player on the roster after fellow vet Ryan Kerrigan was released earlier last week. A leader in the locker room and stalwart starter, Moses’ release comes still as a bit of a surprise, even after the signing of former Chicago Bears tackle Charles Leno and drafting of second-round Longhorn Samuel Cosmi. Even for both of those additions, Washington doesn’t have a clear replacement at right tackle.
Leno was a six-year starter at left tackle for the Bears. He took one career snap at right tackle back in 2015. Cosmi, a three-year starter for the Longhorns, only played on the right side in his redshirt freshman season. He was a second-round pick for Washington this year—last year, they selected Saahdiq Charles in the fourth round. He had one career college game played at right tackle, and didn’t take any snaps at tackle last season. Cornelius Lucas, a veteran journeyman, only played left tackle for Washington last season but has more career snaps at right tackle than at left across his NFL career. That’s one of the sneaky problems with an ironman like Moses—you don’t get a look at the depth chart behind him.
Over the first two offseasons of the Rivera tenure in Washington, offensive coordinator Scott Turner has largely turned over the offensive roster. New quarterbacks in Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kyle Allen, new running backs in Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic, new pass-catchers in Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown. But the offensive line remained largely untouched. The Trent Williams situation aside, Washington retained Brandon Scherff, Chase Roullier, and Moses, all as starters up to this point. Now, Moses is out, and it’s tough to peg his replacement.
That Moses didn’t restructure seems to indicate that Washington’s offensive staff wanted to move on altogether. A heavy-built, mauling tackle, Moses wasn’t necessarily a fit for the zone running style that Turner demonstrated last season. That sort of scheme is better supported by lighter, quick-footed tackles like the recently-acquired Leno and Cosmi. But prioritizing scheme over talent is an easy trap to fall into, and Moses’ consistency and quality play seem worthy of retaining even at the sake of scheme fit, especially when you don’t have a clear replacement.
Cosmi is likely the ideal replacement, as he has the high draft capital. As Washington reporter John Keim alluded to, the Moses release is made more understandable given the acquisitions of Leno and Cosmi, and Leno’s expectation to start at left tackle makes a Cosmi transition to right tackle very possible. If Cosmi can’t make the switch, Lucas is the insurance plan.
It is important to note that both Lucas and, critically, Leno are on one-year deals. While Cosmi may be the best 2021 option for right tackle, he also may be the best option for 2022 (and beyond) at left tackle, pending the play of Leno. Leno will turn 30 this year and has been an ironman for much of his career—but it’s always tough to bet on tackles holding their level of play across the attrition of many, many career games.
Playing Cosmi on the right likely means a learning curve, and if he settles in well, you don’t want to move him. That leaves Charles as your best developmental option on the left side—and Charles was a nice developmental prospect coming out of 2020; a prospect I liked a lot. But again, you’d be betting on him as a starter without many live reps at left tackle, depending on the health and availability of Leno this season.
In moving on from Moses, then, you may raise the ceiling of play on your offensive line—but you also lower your floor. Offensive line play is generally an area in which you’d like a high floor rather than a high ceiling, and cutting Moses invites risk. Both in the short term—will you get a good starter at right tackle?—and in the long-term—where do you best develop Cosmi?
It’s a bit of a risk for Washington, and if their personnel department hits on their picks, it’ll pay off with additional cap space and talented youth. But on a team otherwise lacking in short-term gaps, the right tackle spot suddenly glares.