Jay Gruden often defends Josh Doctson. The Redskins head coach has pointed to inconsistent quarterback play, all-around struggles on offense and a lack of opportunities as reasons for why the wide receiver hasn’t yet lived up to the expectations created by his selection in the first round of the 2016 draft.
The organization, however, has a decision to make by the end of the day Friday on the future of the former No. 22 overall pick. Teams must decide whether to pick up the fifth-year options for 2016 first-rounders, whose original four-year deals are set to expire after the 2019 season.
Doctson would make $10.2 million in 2020 if the Redskins pick up the option, according to a person familiar with the NFL’s salary structures, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to release those figures. That’s a hefty pay raise from the $1.8 million base salary he’ll make in 2019, and it would give Doctson the fourth-highest base salary on the team next season, according to salary website OverTheCap.com. It would be a big commitment for a player who has recorded 1,100 receiving yards over three seasons.
“I know that people are looking for more from him,” Gruden acknowledged Saturday.
Doctson has been a disappointment through three seasons, but is coming off a career year with 44 catches for 532 yards. His six touchdowns in 2017 are a career high. Injuries have been a constant issue, as he missed 14 games as a rookie and dealt with nagging ailments the last two seasons. Analytics website Pro Football Focus ranked Doctson as the No. 81 receiver in 2018.
“Maybe at times they could have featured him more, but I understand the reluctance, they haven’t been able to count on him,” said Charley Casserly, former Redskins general manager and current NFL Network analyst. “He’s been disappointing compared to what I thought. I thought he was a No. 2 receiver coming out. He hasn’t equaled that. . . . He’s not a speed guy, so he’ll always be a No. 2 guy. So, therefore, he’s going to be No. 2 money on the market, at best, when he goes out there.”
That salary-prediction game is one of the factors the Redskins will have to weigh. Is that $10.2 million more than Doctson would receive on the open market should he become a free agent in 2020? Do they want to decline the extra year and make him prove he’s worth an extension based on his play this season? Are they willing to risk Doctson walking away for nothing in free agency?
Former Redskins starting slot receiver Jamison Crowder signed a $28.5 million deal with the Jets in March that averages $9.5 million per year, according to Over The Cap, and Casserly said he doesn’t believe Doctson would get that type of money.
FOX analyst Charles Davis said he would make Doctson prove his worth in 2019. Davis pointed out that Doctson was adept at getting upfield, catching balls over opponents and being a red-zone threat in college at TCU, and has shown the same ability in the league, but has not developed other attributes to become an all-around receiving threat.
"Going into his fourth year, will that develop? Davis said. “Will there be more to his game? Or is that going to be his primary and is that going to be enough?
“I like the kid a lot,” Davis continued. “I just don’t know that the range of him as a receiver has expanded enough and is it going to this season? . . . Very few guys in the NFL do you say, ‘Just do one thing and we’re good with that.’ If you’re getting a first-round pick, you expect him to be a WR1. A WR1 is not going to just catch jump balls and red-zone throws.”
The Redskins may have tipped their hand a bit during last weekend’s draft. The team took receivers Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon in the third and sixth rounds, respectively, in an attempt to add more playmaking pass catchers. Two other receivers, Steven Sims Jr. and T.J. Rahming, were added as undrafted free agents.
Casserly doesn’t believe the Redskins were sending some kind of message to Doctson with the receiver selections, but the team is clearly lacking at the position — and that fact, in part, stems from a lack of production from their former first-round pick, who should be entering his prime.
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