Offseason questions: Should the Redskins re-sign Santana Moss?

Santana Moss has seen his role in Washington diminish in each of the last two seasons. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Santana Moss has seen his role in Washington diminish in each of the last two seasons. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins have engaged in negotiations for a new contract for impending free agent wide receiver Santana Moss, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Moss turns 35 in June and will be entering his 14th NFL season and his ninth with Washington. He has said that he wants to remain here, and the team’s initiation of negotiations implies that the interest is mutual. But whether or not the Redskins should actually pull the trigger on such a deal is the topic of today’s debate in our ongoing series on offseason questions facing this team.

Moss has ranked among the Redskins’ leaders both on and off the field ever since Joe Gibbs sent a disgruntled Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets in exchange for Moss in 2005. Moss has provided many memorable moments during his time in Washington, but in the last two years he has seen his role diminish.

The Redskins signed Pierre Garcon in 2012 and he took over as the No. 1 receiver. Moss then slid down to the No. 3 spot, behind Garcon and Josh Morgan, and served as the team’s slot receiver. Despite the reduced role, Moss remained effective and served as one of Robert Griffin III’s go-to guys, recording a team-high eight touchdown receptions. His average of 14 yards per catch also ranked among the team’s leaders.

But things changed in 2013, when Moss’s effectiveness diminished. He appeared in all 16 games but managed only two touchdown receptions and 452 yards on 42 catches. His average dipped to 10.8 yards per catch. Moss also had numerous untimely drops, which was a change from his usual clutch ways.

Part of Moss’s decrease can be traced to the emergence of tight end Jordan Reed, whom Kyle Shanahan often lined up in the slot. Moss never made excuses, but he did acknowledge that at times it was harder to develop a rhythm and feel for the flow of the game while operating on a smaller allotment of snaps. Age may have played a factor as well. But Moss still seems to have good quickness, and he didn’t have problems getting open regularly.

Moss’s veteran presence is a positive element on a receiving unit filled with young players. But the Redskins must decide what kind of on-field role Moss would have in Jay Gruden and Sean McVay’s offense. Will a philosophy change lead to resurgence in productivity? If they don’t see him having a large role, they must decide if it’s worth it to pay for a player that will not play but will supply strong veteran influence (see Rex Grossman the last two years). Most likely, though, if Moss is going to stick around for a 14th season, he will want to contribute.

But how much is he worth? Last season, Moss restructured his deal to remain with the Redskins and earned a base salary of $2 million. The veteran minimum for a player with 10-plus years of experience is just less than $1 million. But it’s unclear where the two sides stand on both salary and contract length, or how close the two sides are to an agreement.

Even if Moss does come at an affordable rate, the Redskins must also consider what other options present themselves on the roster, on free agent market and in the draft.

Leonard Hankerson has lined up in the slot but faces an uncertain future as he tries to come back from a torn ACL. Nick Williams lined up in the slot occasionally late in the year after training behind Moss while on the practice squad.

This year’s free agent class of wide receivers includes Julian Edelman, who took over for Wes Welker in New England and recorded 105 catches. The draft also has a number of promising slot receiver prospects, including Oregon’s Josh Huff, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington, Kent State’s Dri Archer and Baylor’s Tevin Reese.

Is Moss better than any of those options, or is it time for the Redskins to move on?

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