The Washington Redskins are known as the team with arguably the most free agency misses in NFL history. When it comes to the NFL Draft, however, they’ve been relatively solid, but that doesn’t mean they’ve managed to hang onto all their top contributors for the bulk of their prime years. With that in mind, let’s identify three draft picks that the Redskins gave up on way too early.
3. LB Preston Smith
Preston Smith’s game improved once leaving Washington. | Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Preston Smith was far from a household name entering the 2015 NFL Draft, and Redskins used their second-round pick on the Mississippi State linebacker. He became an under-the-radar pass rusher, recording 168 tackles, 59 quarterback hits, 24.5 sacks, 13 passes defensed, and four forced fumbles in four years in DC. Washington refused to re-up with Smith, and instead allowed him to sign with the Green Bay Packers, where he had the best season in his entire career in 2019 and has every chance to keep getting better.
2. WR Desmond Howard
Imagine parting ways with a future Super Bowl MVP. | Focus On Sport/Getty Images
The Redskins cut ties with a future Super Bowl MVP? Say it ain’t so! Desmond Howard was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner as a wide receiver and return specialist at Michigan. Naturally, with Washington holding the fourth overall pick in 1992, they rushed to take the highlight reel star. Howard didn’t produce through his three seasons with the Redskins, only recording five touchdown receptions, and he was a non-factor in the return game. The Redskins lost Howard’s services to the Jacksonville Jaguars after making him available in the 1995 expansion draft, and even though he bounced around the league, Howard did reach notable heights. He was was a First Team All-Pro and the Super Bowl XXXI MVP with the Packers after scoring a game-winning touchdown on a 99-yard kickoff return, and was a Pro Bowler with the Lions in 2000. The Redskins simply missed out on the best of him.
1. CB Champ Bailey
The Redskins let a future Hall of Famer walk away. | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Only the Redskins would trade away a Hall of Fame caliber cornerback. Champ Bailey was selected by Washington in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft, and quickly established himself as the best corner in the league. Even though he secured 18 interceptions and was named to four Pro Bowls as a Redskin, the team refused to give him a contract extension and allowed him to seek a trade. Bailey would be flipped to the Denver Broncos for running back Clinton Portis only to solidify his status as the greatest defensive back of the 21st century even further. Bailey was named to eight Pro Bowls and tallied a ridiculous 34 interceptions in his ten years with the Broncos. To make Washington look even more like fools, Bailey was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019…as a Bronco. That’s salt in the wound right there.