The Washington Redskins set out to upgrade at wide receiver via free agency but opinion is divided about whether they’ve accomplished that.
Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman shares an alma mater—Virginia Tech—with Josh Morgan, one of the free agent wideouts just added by the Redskins and another, Eddie Royal, whom the team is chasing.
Freeman said he likes the Redskins’ additions of wide receiver Pierre Garcon and Morgan and its pursuit of Royal. But he wonders whether the team has done enough to improve its receiving corps sufficiently.
“They got a bunch of number two receivers, a bunch of guys who never had 1,000-yard seasons,” Freeman said Wednesday. “I love Josh Morgan. I love Royal, and not only because they’re Virginia Tech guys. I love the way they play. I like their body of work. 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 by which it can be converted to a two-year deal worth as much as $12 million. Washington is attempting to apply the finishing touches to a deal with Royal, who has spent his first four NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos.
None of the three has reached 1,000 yards receiving in the NFL. Royal had 91 catches for 980 yards as a rookie in 2008. But he hasn’t had even a 700-yard receiving season since then. He had 19 catches for 155 yards in 12 games last season.
“Eddie Royal had a big rookie year,” Freeman said. “But after [former Broncos wide receiver] Brandon Marshall left, he wasn’t able to put up the same types of numbers.”
Morgan had 15 catches in an injury-shortened 2011 season for the 49ers. He totaled 96 catches in the two seasons prior to that. But he never reached 700 receiving yards in any of his four seasons with the 49ers.
“He can work inside the numbers,” Freeman said. “He can work outside the numbers. He was having a nice season last year before he got hurt, and losing him might have made the difference for the 49ers in them not getting to the Super Bowl. But I don’t know that they [the Redskins] have helped themselves enough. 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.”
Garcon is being paid top-receiver money by the Redskins, and he gives the team speed and a deep-ball receiving threat for expected rookie 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.
“He played alongside Reggie Wayne, who drew a lot of the attention from the defense,” Freeman said. “Now Garcon becomes that guy. He does bring a play-making presence. But he’s not playing alongside Reggie Wayne any more. He’s not playing alongside [tight end] Dallas Clark. He doesn’t have Peyton Manning as his quarterback.”
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 said. “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. For what we did, he was a little bit of a limited route-runner. For them in their West Coast offense, I think he’ll be able to run their route tree and when he gets a step on someone, he can really put his foot on the gas pedal.”
The Redskins did not land free agent wideout Vincent Jackson, who agreed to a five-year, $55.6 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A Redskins offense that lacked a 1,000-yard receiver last season still doesn’t have one after the first day of free agent maneuvering.
“I personally think they spent too much for those guys,” Freeman said. “They paid them, what, more than $5 million a year each, and they really don’t have a number one receiver…. I remember the days when they had the ‘Fun Bunch’ in D.C. They can add these guys to the guys they had and have something like that. They can spread the field. I like that. But I don’t think they’ve made enough of an upgrade. They recruited the same types of receivers that they already had. Where’s the game-changer?