Offseason question: Should the Redskins move on from Josh Morgan?


Josh Morgan had a disappointing 2013 campaign. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

In the offseason of 2012, the Washington Redskins made a push to upgrade their wide receiving unit, signing free agent pass-catchers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan.

They envisioned them as a potent pair that would lead the unit and serve as go-to guys for then-rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Two years later, Garcon has proven that the Redskins made the right call when they signed him to a five-year deal with $20.5 million guaranteed. This past season he led the NFL with 113 catches, which also broke Art Monk’s 29-year-old single-season franchise record.

Morgan, meanwhile, hasn’t had nearly the same type of impact. Last week, his contract was voided and he will be a free agent. He has lobbied for a new deal  his contract paid him $7.3 million in guaranteed money over the past two seasons   with his hometown team. But it remains to be seen if the Redskins share his interest.

Morgan got off to a promising start. In 2012, he made some spectacular grabs and gutted his way through painful physical limitations and injuries, including having a plate and seven screws in his right ankle, which made it difficult for him to make cuts and run certain routes. He also had broken bones in both hands. He played in every game and recorded 48 catches for 510 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for a touchdown.

After having the plate in his ankle removed last offseason, Morgan and the Redskins expected him to become more explosive and productive.

But that didn’t happen. Morgan opened the season as the starter opposite Garcon, but after a four-catch, 51-yard outing in the season opener, he lost his job to Leonard Hankerson. Morgan initially rotated frequently with the younger, bigger Hankerson. But gradually, he saw his playing time dwindle more and more. He claimed he didn’t know why he was in the doghouse and insisted that he hadn’t done anything to lose his job.

● Related: Bog: Morgan says Shanahan wouldn’t meet with him | Morgan complains again

But part of the problem was the fact that Morgan wasn’t doing enough. In Week 2 against Green Bay, he tipped a catchable pass into the hands of a defender in Packers territory. Other times, when he got on the field, he struggled to get open.

The Redskins relegated him to kick and punt returner, the latter of which was new to him, but he didn’t make an impact in those areas, either. Morgan regained his starting job because Hankerson tore his anterior cruciate ligament, but in the final games he dressed for (he was inactive in the season finale), Morgan managed nine catches for 126 yards. He ended the year with only 20 receptions for 214 yards and no touchdowns.

In Week 15 against Atlanta, Morgan had a chance to catch a game-winning two-point conversion, but he ran the wrong way on his route and then drifted back toward Garcon in the back corner of the end zone, drawing an extra defender to the area. Kirk Cousins had no choice but to put the ball up high, Garcon couldn’t pull it down and Washington lost.

Despite the poor year, Morgan wants to return to the Redskins. In an interview with 106.7 The Fan last week, Morgan still maintained that his falling out with Mike Shanahan led to him “not being able to show my talents.”

He believes that a fresh start under Coach Jay Gruden will help him resurrect his career, however.

The Redskins certainly need help at wide receiver. Uncertainty hangs over Hankerson, and it remains to be seen if Aldrick Robinson (re-signed last week) can develop into a more complete pass-catcher.

But the team should have options when it comes to the draft or free agency.  Wideouts expected to hit the market include Denver’s Eric Decker, Green Bay’s James Jones, Philadelphia’s Riley Cooper, San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin, New England’s Julian Edelman, the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks, Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin and Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster.

If Morgan does return, it will have to be at a significantly lower salary, and he’ll have to convince Bruce Allen, Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay that he is capable of pulling off a significant rebound. But thus far, unlike a number of Washington’s other impending free agents, there haven’t been talks between the two sides.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

More from The Post:

D.C. Sports Bog: Kornheiser baffled by Redskins’ response to Congress

Other installments in offseason questions series

Mailbag: On Williams, Sam, Cousins and K. Shanahan

Morning Pixels: Garcon doesn’t have any problems with Sam’s sexuality

Bog: Post photographer wins award for RGIII photo | More Bog

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

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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Mark Bullock · February 12, 2014

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