It’s only March, but the collective eyes of the sports world will be trained on the NFL, today, as free agency is set to begin later this afternoon. As usual, the frenzy is accompanied by a whirlwind of rumors and intrigue. Fans around the league can only sit back with bated-breath until the dust settles.
It’s a day that lives in infamy for the Washington Redskins. They have a history of jumping in and making the biggest splash – only to find they are trapped in a well, with no live preserver and no ladder to get out.
Fans of the team may experience that similar, sinking feeling today, but for different reasons. For the first time in a while, the Redskins do have some players whom other teams covet. And, if rumors are true, they may have to patch a few more holes than they had planned.
Their number one and two wide receivers, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, are reportedly headed for Tampa Bay and San Francisco, respectively. While the consensus was that the Redskins couldn’t afford both players, it was also assumed that at least one of them would be back. Now it looks like they won’t have either.
That leaves them with Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris and 2016 first-rounder, Josh Doctson. Crowder has shown moxie but lacks the size and speed to be a true, number one threat. Grant and Harris are solid, but below-average, role players.
Doctson is the x-factor, with unquestioned athleticism and talent, but questionable health and desire. His career arc will go a long way to determining how much egg Bruce Allen, Scott McCloughan – or whomever the hell is running the front office – will have on their collective faces.
Evidence would most likely finger Allen, who is considered the Redskins’ “cap guy”, to be behind the move. Since he took over, the Redskins have mostly reigned in the big spending (Josh Norman being a rare exception). They’ve righted the ship, cap-wise, and have freed the books from albatross contracts.
Using this frugal logic, passing on two players on the wrong side of 30 makes sense. But, there is still a lingering sense that they bungled the situation.
Jackson was always going to be plan B for the Redskins. He’s talented, but his mercurial-reputation seemed to play a large factor, in management’s eyes.
And, there were Jackson’s philosophical differences with the coaching staff. Jay Gruden and Sean McVay seemed unsure of the best way to utilize the wide receiver’s talents – kind of like the guy who buys a Porsche, but never takes it out of third gear. Jackson was too often rendered irrelevant for a guy of his talents.
Still, it never felt like he was one of us. Fans have long memories, and perhaps the image of him torching the Redskins in an Eagles uniform was too much to overcome. He won’t be missed. Garcon, however, is a different story.
The 49ers have reportedly offered Garcon a deal that will pay him $16 million in 2017.* That seems excessive – it puts the Haitian-sensation in the neighborhood of Antonio Brown money – but may not be as crazy as you think.
*Editor’s Note: Today, those reports have been clarified. Garcon would receive a three-year deal with a $12 million dollar signing bonus. He would make roughly $4 million in base salary in 2017, including incentives.
Over the last four seasons Garcon has averaged 83 catches, providing a reliable-target for quarterback Kirk Cousins. He’s gone from being underrated to a valuable commodity in today’s NFL, which has become increasingly-hip to possession receivers, with Brown being the ultimate-example.
If the Redskins had read into the tea leaves, they would have seen where the market was going and would have known they’d have to shell out for Garcon.
What’s troubling is how consistently the organization has been seemingly-blindsided by inflation. The salary cap continues to skyrocket, rendering the worth of yesterday’s dollar into but a few nickels of modern currency.
There is only one way for teams to stop the bleeding: renegotiate contracts before they are up. That way, they can spread the pain out across multiple seasons. By waiting until the very last minute to commit to their players, the Redskins are guaranteeing they won’t receive any value.
It’s a good lesson to learn, but an expensive one.