Offseason questions: What kind of a deal should the Redskins offer Fred Davis?

February 12, 2013

Fred Davis (Brian Blanco/The Associated Press)

Taking a look at more offseason question areas for the Washington Redskins, today we consider the case of Fred Davis.

After Davis put up career numbers in a 12-game, suspension-shortened 2011 season, the second-round pick’s contract expired last year. Rather than allowing him to hit the free agent market, the Redskins used the franchise tag on him and paid him just less than $5.5 million for the 2012 season.

Davis entered last season with three goals: proving that he had matured and learned his lesson from the drug suspension; helping his team reverse its losing ways; and earning a big payday in the offseason that would follow.

Davis got off to a bit of a slow start before having a season’s-best outing against Cincinnati with seven catches for 90 yards.

But four games later, his season came to an end when he ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon.

The Redskins received decent production from Logan Paulsen with Davis out, but Paulsen doesn’t boast the same type of speed and explosiveness.

Washington’s top minds have an important decision to make regarding Davis this offseason.

He will again be a free agent, but how much is he worth?

If Davis is able to return to the form he displayed in 2011, when he put up Pro Bowl numbers, he is extremely valuable. But given his injury and the uncertainty surrounding it, he might find it difficult to demand top dollar – in that $7 million a year range, like the five-year $35 million deal Seattle’s Zach Miller signed two years ago.

A better comparison could be a deal similar John Carlson’s. After missing all of 2011 with and injury, he signed a five-year, $25 million deal with Seattle.

One league insider said that the Redskins, or some other team with interest in Davis, could offer him a multi-year deal despite his injury-shortened 2012 campaign. But they said to protect themselves, teams could structure the deals they offer Davis in a way that would lessen the payout in the event of an unsuccessful return from injury.

The Redskins, of course, could use the franchise tag on him once again, and have him play on another one-year deal before giving him a big pay day. But if they do that, the CBA dictates that his salary for that one season would increase to roughly $6.5 million. That figure might not actually be much more — or could be equal to — the first-year salary on a multi-year deal.

There are, however, other talented tight ends on the market, including Tennessee’s Jared Cook, Dustin Keller of the New York Jets and Martellus Bennett of the Giants.

The Redskins have to decide whether they feel confident enough in Davis’s recovery to open up the checkbook, or whether they want to avoid the injury-related risks and head in another direction.

Follow @MikeJonesWaPo on Twitter.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Lenny Bernstein · February 11, 2013