The Washington Redskins are making plans to add a high-profile wide receiver in an NFL free agent market that has them in abundance, according to several people familiar with the team’s deliberations.
Most of the speculation about the Redskins’ planned offseason retooling has focused on their strategy to upgrade at quarterback. But offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has publicly acknowledged the team’s need for a big-play wide receiver, and people with knowledge of the Redskins’ plans say they appear to be focusing on the free agent market, which opens March 13, rather than the draft, for that player.
Such a move could aid the development of a young quarterback if the Redskins add one, perhaps by trading up in the NFL draft to select Baylor’s Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, in April. Or it could make for a more potent offense built around a veteran quarterback if the Redskins are able to sign Peyton Manning, who soon may be released by the Indianapolis Colts, or Kyle Orton in free agency.
The Redskins didn’t have a player ranked among the league’s top 25 in receiving yards last season. Their leader in receiving yards, wideout Jabar Gaffney, was tied for 26th in the league with 947 yards.
Several people in the sport said a leading target for the Redskins could be San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson. The issue with Jackson, as with some of the other top receivers with expiring contracts, is whether he will remain available after Monday’s deadline for teams to use their franchise-player tags. The Chargers, according to one source, have not ruled out using their franchise-player designation on Jackson but seem to be leaning against doing so.
Jackson had 60 catches for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns for the Chargers last season. He has topped 1,000 receiving yards in three of the last four seasons and would become the Redskins’ clear No. 1 receiver. He averaged 18.4 yards per catch last season.
Another receiver who could draw interest from the Redskins is Pierre Garcon, a prospective free agent who has spent his four NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Garcon has not been as productive as Jackson, and has not had a 1,000-yard season in the NFL. But he had 70 catches for 947 yards and six touchdowns last season even with Manning out of the lineup, and he is likely to be in demand on the free agent market. Garcon reportedly rejected a recent contract Colts offer worth about $35 million over five seasons.
Fellow Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne also is eligible for free agency, and one source familiar with the situation in Indianapolis said he would not be surprised to see Manning join a new team and bring along f former teammates, including Wayne and Garcon. But others in the league said they weren’t certain how much influence Manning’s destination would have over free-agent decisions of Garcon and others. It seems likely, they said, that the Redskins would pursue Garcon even if they failed to land Manning.
The free-agent market could be well-stocked with receivers for the Redskins and other interested teams even if Jackson and Garcon sign elsewhere. The list of wideouts eligible for unrestricted free agency also includes Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe, Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson, New England’s Wes Welker, Marques Colston of New Orleans, Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson, the New York Jets’ Plaxico Burress and the New York Giants’ Mario Manningham. Bowe, Welker and DeSean Jackson are candidates for their teams’ franchise tags, however.
The Saints appear willing to use their franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees if they’re unable to sign him to a contract extension before Monday’s deadline. If they can complete a deal with Brees, the Saints would be able to use their franchise designation on another free agent. But they might choose to apply it to guard Carl Nicks and leave Colston free to test the market.
Colston has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in five of his six NFL seasons since the Saints selected him with a seventh-round draft pick out of Hofstra. He had 80 catches for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns last season as Brees set the NFL’s single-season record for passing yards.