By Rick Maeseand Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 10, 2010; D1
The Redskins released Devin Thomas on Saturday, cutting ties with the third-year wide receiver who came to Washington with lofty expectations but leaves without a single reception in 2010.
The decision to waive Thomas, who started 10 games under coach Jim Zorn in 2009 but was buried on the depth chart under Coach Mike Shanahan this season, removes one of the highest-profile draft picks made by Vinny Cerrato, Shanahan's predecessor at the helm of the team's football operation.
The Redskins were trying to trade Thomas but were unable to work out a deal. Running back Keiland Williams will take Thomas's place on the 53-man roster, the Redskins announced. According to a league source, Williams is expected to play Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at FedEx Field.
Shanahan has not been forthcoming about Thomas's situation, but his son, Kyle Shanahan, Washington's offensive coordinator, often made it clear the former Michigan State standout did not display the all-around performance the team seeks from the position. Thomas lined up as a wide receiver just once in the first four games of 2010.
Thomas said he doesn't know why the Shanahans view him so poorly.
"I still don't know, to this day, what it was or what I did," Thomas said Saturday afternoon in a lengthy phone interview. "I went out and I worked as hard as I could. Even when it was clear, you know, that they weren't going to play me, I just kept doing everything I could to try to show them I deserved to be out there.
"I just wanted a chance to get out there and try to make some plays to help us. Maybe I just wasn't the type they're looking for. Maybe they just don't want a big-play receiver who can do everything. Maybe that wasn't appealing to them. I mean, I really don't know what it was. . . . Now I can go to a team that wants me to make plays and help them win.
Thomas was the first player selected after owner Daniel Snyder promoted Cerrato to executive vice president of the football operation. The Redskins gave Thomas a $5 million signing bonus. He had base salaries of $445,000 in 2008, $550,000 in 2009 and was scheduled to receive $750,000 this season. He was scheduled to receive $700,000 in bonuses last season and another $750,000 in bonuses this season.
Listed at 6 feet 2, 218 pounds, Thomas, 23, was the Redskins' biggest wide receiver on the active roster. But that did not help him get on the field on offense. Top wideout Santana Moss has a team-leading 22 catches. Joey Galloway and Anthony Armstrong are next among the wideouts with four receptions apiece.
Thomas returned 12 kicks this season, averaging 28 yards per return. He brought one back for 42 yards, but Shanahan apparently didn't think he could afford to have two wide receivers who served primarily as return specialists. The Redskins used undrafted rookie Brandon Banks to return punts last week at Philadelphia, and Banks could be the leading candidate to return kicks Sunday against Green Bay.
Thomas was the 34th overall selection in the 2008 draft and arrived in Washington along with wideout Malcolm Kelly and tight end Fred Davis. While Davis is contributing as the team's No. 2 tight end, Kelly also has struggled to find a place with the Redskins and was placed on injured reserve prior to the 2010 season.
Thomas hoped that his strong work on kickoff returns (he's sixth in the NFL in return average) would make a difference, "but I was never really given a fair shot" with this coaching staff, he said.
It seems likely some team will take a chance on a big, young wideout with speed. It is doubtful Thomas will clear waivers. Even if he did, he is not eligible for the Redskins' practice squad.
"I was prepared for this for a long time," Thomas said. "When I wasn't playing and no matter how hard I worked, you know, you could see it didn't matter. I just said my prayers and started to prepare myself mentally. So I can't really say it was a surprise, because you could see something was coming with me never playing."