Washington Redskins move on to other needs in free agency


New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross (31) stops New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker during the first half of last month’s Super Bowl. The Redskins will host a meeting with Ross on Friday. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

The Washington Redskins turned their attention Wednesday to locking up a third free agent wide receiver and plugging holes in their secondary, continuing their pursuit of former Denver Bronco Eddie Royal and setting up visits by a pair of defensive backs.

The Redskins remained optimistic about signing Royal after a late-night dinner Tuesday that included Coach Mike Shanahan, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and General Manager Bruce Allen. A deal with Royal fell apart earlier Tuesday evening, when other teams expressed interest in the former Virginia Tech standout.

The team also brought in free agent strong safety Brandon Meriweather for a visit Wednesday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Seemingly content to let strong safety LaRon Landry depart, the Redskins would fill a pressing need if they were able to sign the former Chicago Bear, a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

The team also must replace free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who was released Monday. But second-year pro DeJon Gomes and six-year veteran Reed Doughty, who saw significant time at that position last year, may be called on to fill that role.

The Redskins also will host free agent cornerback Aaron Ross on Friday, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed, and joined several teams pursuing free agent left guard Ben Grubbs, another person said Wednesday.

A five-year veteran with the Baltimore Ravens, the 6-foot-3, 311-pound Grubbs has started 70 of 74 games for the Ravens during his career. Ross has spent all five of his pro seasons with the New York Giants.

The Redskins face uncertainty at left guard. Starter Kory Lichtensteiger missed the final 10 games of the 2011 season after tearing his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments.

The Redskins expect Lichtensteiger to be ready to play by the start of training camp, but want to bolster their interior offensive line depth.

Meanwhile, Washington has yet to reach an agreement to re-sign inside linebacker London Fletcher, the team’s captain and the NFL’s leading tackler last season. The 36-year-old Fletcher and the Redskins both have expressed a desire to reach a deal, but it was unclear Wednesday how far apart they are.

The Redskins also lost a backup quarterback candidate when free agent Kyle Orton agreed to a contract with the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday.

The Redskins have quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton, who spent last year on the Redskins’ practice squad, and John Beck under contract. Last year’s starter, Rex Grossman, is a free agent. It’s not clear whether Orton’s decision to sign with the Cowboys will lead the Redskins to more strongly consider re-signing Grossman.

After Tuesday’s flurry of free agent signings, the Redskins have upgraded their wide receiver corps, analysts said. But they expressed mixed opinions about how much progress they had made.

Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman said the Redskins’ addition of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and their pursuit of Royal will help, but more needs to be done.

“They got a bunch of number two receivers, a bunch of guys who never had 1,000-yard seasons,” Freeman said. “I love Josh Morgan. I love Royal . . . but to me, it’s not enough.”

The Redskins agreed Tuesday to a five-year, $42.5 million contract with Garcon, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts. They agreed with Morgan, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, to a five-year contract that contains a provision under which it can be converted to a two-year deal worth as much as $12 million. Royal, who also returns kicks, spent his first four NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos.

Garcon said the Redskins pursued him more aggressively than any other team once free agency opened. “They beat everyone to the punch,” he said on Comcast SportsNet.

Appearing on the same broadcast, Morgan, A D.C. native, said he was happy to be returning to Washington. “I grew up two blocks away from RFK Stadium,” he said. “I know the history of the Redskins.”

None of the three has reached 1,000 yards receiving in the NFL. Morgan, 26, had 15 catches in an injury-shortened 2011 season for the 49ers. He totaled 96 catches in the two seasons before that. But he did not reach 700 receiving yards in any of his four seasons with the 49ers.

“When you look at the Giants, when you look at Philly, and the receivers those teams have, I don’t know that they’ve matched the talent level of the competing teams,” Freeman said.

Garcon, 25, will be paid top-receiver money by the Redskins, and he gives the team speed and a deep-ball receiving threat for expected quarterback-to-be Robert Griffin III. But Garcon mostly was a complement to veteran wideout Reggie Wayne in four seasons in Indianapolis. He had career bests of 70 catches and 947 receiving yards last season.

Former Colts general manager Chris Polian called the Redskins’ deal with Garcon reasonable.

“He’s had increasing production every year,” Polian said by phone Wednesday. “There is room to get better. I don’t know that we’ve seen his ceiling yet. I think it was a good signing.” Garcon rejected a five-year contract offer from the Colts, reportedly worth $35 million, before free agency.

“He’s a big-play guy,” Polian added. “He can run. He’s a tough guy. He plays with a lot of emotion. There will be a drop every now and then, but he works real hard on his hands.”

But Freeman said that “I personally think they spent too much for those guys. . . . They recruited the same types of receivers that they already had. Where’s the game-changer? ”

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.
Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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