Being a Washington Redskins fan is not an easy thing to do. This is especially true if you are under 30 years old. There was a time that the Redskins were one of the premier franchises in the entire NFL, winning three Super Bowls and five NFC Championships from 1972 to 1991. All of that came under the ownership of Jack Kent Cooke, who would pass away in 1997. With the team up for sale, it was Dan Snyder that became the owner in 1999.
Since then, the Redskins have been notorious for finishing toward the bottom of the NFC while making huge splashes in free agency that fail miserably. It has turned around in the past few years, but this century has been plagued by bad front office decisions. It hasn’t been all bad, though, as there have been some great Redskins players in that time, too.
Let’s take a look at the players that have played for the Redskins since 2000 and highlight the best and worst. To make the list, a majority of their Redskins careers had to have taken place in the 2000 season or later. You’ll learn from this list that the best Redskins players have mostly been homegrown talent, while the worst have been expensive free agents. Here are the eight best and seven worst Redskins since 2000, which actually doesn’t include names like Santana Moss, Kirk Cousins (yet), DeSean Jackson or Brian Orakpo.
15 Best - Ryan Kerrigan
Our list begins with current team captain and defensive mainstay Ryan Kerrigan. If you recall, the Redskins actually traded down in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft with the Jaguars. While the Redskins were still able to get Kerrigan, the Jags really wanted Blaine Gabbert. Thankfully, it has worked out for Washington as Kerrigan has been selected to two Pro Bowls in his first six seasons in the league.
Kerrigan has also not missed a single start in his career, totalling 58.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions that he has taken to the house. Kerrigan has a chance to climb up the list as it appears he will be in Washington for several years. He signed a five-year contract worth $57.5 million to remain with the Redskins starting before the 2015 season.
14 Worst - Deion Sanders
For more than a decade, Deion Sanders had been torturing the Redskins and their fans as a member of the Falcons, 49ers and, of course, the Cowboys. After being released by the Cowboys following the 1999 season, the Redskins went after Sanders in their big free agent splash of early 2000. Sanders would sign on with the Redskins for seven years and $56 million, which is still a huge amount today.
Sanders would return the favor by only playing for one year that saw him get a decent amount of interceptions, but also blow a lot of coverages. He had struggled at punt returns, as well, with the exception of one return against Tampa Bay to set up a win. Sanders then retired from the NFL after that one season and had to return some of his money to the Redskins. He would come out of retirement in 2004 with Baltimore before leaving once again in 2006.
13 Best - Clinton Portis
After being a second round pick out of Miami back in 2002, some thought that Clinton Portis could have been a system running back after his time in Denver. After two seasons, Portis had more than 3,000 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns. The Redskins decided that he would be just as good in Washington, as they traded away Champ Bailey and a second round pick for the running back.
Portis turned out to not be a disappointment, as he rushed for 1,315 yards in his first season. The next year would be even better, as he collected 1,516 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2005 as the Redskins reached the playoffs. After seven seasons in Washington, Portis would finish with 8,164 scrimmage yards and 49 touchdowns, good for 97.2 scrimmage yards per game.
12 Worst - Jeff George
Here is a rule of thumb that Redskins fans know by now. If the team drafts a player in the early part of the first round, he’s likely going to be solid. If another team drafts that player and the Redskins eventually acquire him...it’s not going to turn out well. Case in point; Jeff George, who was drafted first overall by the Colts way back in 1990. After spending time in Indianapolis, Atlanta, Oakland and Minnesota, he signed with the Redskins in 2000.
George signed for four years and $18.25 million thanks to his solid 1999 season in Minnesota. However, George would spend just two years in Washington, making seven starts with a record of 1-6. George threw for just 1,557 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. What made it all worse was that Brad Johnson had been doing just fine, and the brass put George behind center for God knows why.
11 Best - LaVar Arrington
Back in 2000, the Redskins were able to secure the second and third overall picks in the draft and hit home runs with both of them. The first one up is LaVar Arrington, the Penn State linebacker that was selected second overall. Arrington proved to be an all-around player for his first four seasons, collecting 20.5 sacks and only missing two games. He would also add three interceptions during that time.
Arrington ran into some injury problems during his last two seasons with the team, but it was clear that he had a tremendous impact beforehand. Arrington was named to three Pro Bowl rosters in a row from 2001 to 2003. It was hard for Redskins fans to see him end his career as a New York Giant in 2006, but at least they got several fantastic years from Arrington before injuries started to mount.
10 Worst - Donovan McNabb
Just like Deion Sanders, Redskins fans were tired of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb brutalizing the team for years. After being in Philadelphia for 11 seasons where he finished with a record of 92-49-1, he would join the Redskins in the 2010 season. Redskins fans were excited on that Easter Sunday in 2010 when it was revealed McNabb would be coming to Washington in exchange for a second round pick and a fourth round pick.
The Redskins then made him a highly paid quarterback with six years and nearly $90 million on his contract extension. Instead of living up to the contract, the 34-year-old spent just one season in Washington, finishing with a 5-8 record, 3,377 yards, 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The worst part was that McNabb was benched in favor of Rex Grossman. Why doesn’t Grossman make the list? Because he was getting paid six figures per year after taxes, not $15 million.
9 Best - London Fletcher
As a member of the Rams for four years and then the Bills for another five, linebacker London Fletcher never reached a single Pro Bowl. That would change when he arrived in Washington and became the undoubtedly leader of the defense. Fletcher played for seven seasons with the Redskins, making four straight Pro Bowls from 2009 to 2012. Fletcher was also durable, not missing a single start in that time.
More than anything, Fletcher was a tackling machine that registered 615 on his own and another 340 assisted tackles. Fletcher would also collect 12 interceptions that always seemed to come at the right times and 11.5 sacks. Fletcher retired after the 2013 season, but not before he made a huge impact on the team and became one of the most beloved Redskins in recent memory.
8 Worst - Malcolm Kelly
Redskins fans were a bit excited during the 2008 NFL Draft as they traded traded out of the first round to acquire some second round picks. All in all, the Redskins had three picks in the second round of that draft, and two of them make the worst list. With the 51st overall pick and their final one of the round, the Redskins selected Malcolm Kelly, the wide receiver out of Oklahoma.
Kelly was supposed to be a talented possession receiver at 6’4” and 220 pounds, but he was a liability on the field. In just two seasons, Kelly would play in 21 games and finish with 28 catches for 365 yards, never finding the end zone. It wouldn’t get better as Kelly would then have injuries mount, and his career was done before the 2011 season even started.
7 Best - Trent Williams
One of just two Redskins on the list that are still on the active roster (Kerrigan being the other), “The Silverback” Trent Williams has been one of the best draft successes the Redskins have had in the past 10 years when he was scooped up with the fourth overall pick out of Oklahoma in 2010. Williams has had some problems with off-the-field issues, but he has still been able to start in just about every game.
In each year since 2012, Williams has found himself on a Pro Bowl roster, and he was named an All-Pro after the 2015 season where he played a big part of the Redskins winning the NFC East. Williams is consistently ranked among the best offensive linemen in the NFL, and it seems that he will be a Redskin for quite some time after signing a five-year contract before the 2015 season.
6 Worst - Devin Thomas
In that famous 2008 second round of the NFL Draft, the Redskins used their first pick on Devin Thomas out of Michigan State, being the 34th overall player drafted. Thomas turned out to be the worst of the three as he couldn’t use injuries as an excuse like Malcolm Kelly. The only player that offered a glimmer of value for the Redskins with their three picks was tight end Fred Davis, who was still a bit of a bust.
Thomas would play in 34 games with the Redskins, catching 40 passes for 445 yards and three touchdowns. By his final season in 2010, he was only playing on special teams as he didn’t fit with Mike Shanahan’s offense. Thomas was let go early into the 2010 season, and he would join four teams to end his career. Just as a reminder, Brandon Flowers, Jordy Nelson, Eddie Royal, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson and Calais Campbell were all still on the board at the time.
5 Best - Sean Taylor
There are always a lot of feelings when you bring up Sean Taylor to not only Redskins fans, but NFL fans all over. Taylor was selected fifth overall out of Miami in 2004, and had a huge impact during his rookie season with four interceptions and 76 total tackles. Taylor quickly established himself as one of the best and hardest hitting safeties that the NFL had seen in years, and he gravitated to the ball like a magnet.
Taylor’s life would tragically be cut short in 2007 as he was having the best season of his career. In only 55 games, Taylor would finish with 12 interceptions, a pair of sacks and nearly 300 combined tackles. The human highlight reel has not had his number 21 worn by another Redskins player since then. His biggest fan, Su’a Cravens, wears the number 36 jersey that Taylor did during his rookie season, though.
4 Worst - Adam Archuleta
Another example of things going wrong for the Redskins when they offer too much money to someone else’s first round draft pick is Adam Archuleta (Pictured Right). Archuleta had been the 20th overall selection by the Rams back in 2001, and put up some solid seasons during his five years in St. Louis. Before the 2006 season, the Redskins backed up the money truck to give Archuleta a six year deal worth $30 million.
At the time, Archuleta was the highest paid safety in the NFL and was supposed to be the perfect complement to Sean Taylor. Instead, it just made us appreciate Taylor that much more, as Archuleta struggled mightily. After just one season, Archuleta started in only seven games with a career low in interceptions (tied), sacks and tackles since his rookie season. He then spent 2007 with the Bears and was then gone from the NFL.
3 Best - Champ Bailey
Earlier we highlighted Clinton Portis, now we see the other side of the blockbuster trade between the two with Champ Bailey. Bailey was regarded as the best cornerback of the 1999 NFL Draft, and the Redskins were fortunate enough to have him slip all the way to seventh. That’s because quarterbacks and running backs were being taken off the board, with busts like Tim Couch and Akili Smith being taken first.
Bailey was only with the Redskins for five seasons, but he had a huge impact for the defense as he didn’t miss a single start and was one of the best at his position. Bailey finished with a tremendous 18 interceptions in those five seasons, and quarterbacks were often scared to look his way. While he is mostly remembered as a Denver Bronco, Redskins fans remember just how good he was for the team in the early 2000’s.
2 Worst - Albert Haynesworth
Before even opening this page, you had to have known that Albert Haynesworth was the worst player for the Redskins not only since 2000, but probably ever. The 15th overall pick by the Titans back in 2001, Haynesworth had some solid seasons in Tennessee. Then, in 2007 and 2008, Haynesworth became an All-Pro that would finish with a combined 14.5 sacks over those two years.
The Redskins “won” the Haynesworth sweepstakes by paying Haynesworth a seven year contract that had a maximum value of $115 million. In two seasons, Haynesworth’s numbers dropped, his motor completely died out and he was giving up on plays. He even lost his starting job in the 2010 season as Mike Shanahan wanted nothing to do with him. Haynesworth would be traded to New England after just two seasons in exchange for a fifth round pick. It was the best day ever for many Redskins fans.
1 Best - Chris Samuels
As this list has shown you, the Redskins have had some good luck when it comes to draft picks in the top 10, linebackers and offensive tackles. After taking LaVar Arrington with the second pick in 2000, they selected Alabama tackle Chris Samuels with the third overall pick. While Samuels didn’t make a huge splash away from the field and wasn’t all that talked about, he was one of the best offensive linemen for 10 seasons.
Samuels only missed three games during the first eight seasons of his career before injuries mounted starting in 2008. Samuels was rewarded for his skill and durability with six Pro Bowl selections and an All-Pro nod in 2001. While you might know names like Trent Williams and Tyron Smith now, Samuels was at an elite level for very long time. People just didn’t know that much about him.