The Washington Redskins will not pick up the fifth-year contract option of wide receiver Josh Doctson, according to a person with knowledge of the decision, making the former first-round pick an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season.
The 22nd overall pick from 2016 has been a disappointment in his first three seasons, and the fifth-year option would have come with a $10.2 million price tag for 2020, which would have given Doctson the fourth-highest base salary on the team, according to salary website OverTheCap.com. Organizations have until Friday to pick up the fifth-year options of 2016 first-rounders.
The team informed Doctson of its decision, according to another person with knowledge of the situation. Both people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a move that hadn’t yet been made public.
The decision does not come as a surprise, given Doctson’s NFL performance so far. Doctson has 81 career catches for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns, and his lack of high-end production has been a frequent source of frustration among Redskins fans. Analytics website Pro Football Focus ranked the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder the No. 81 receiver in the league in 2018, and that was with career highs of 44 catches and 532 receiving yards. He also has dealt with a litany of injuries that kept him out of 14 games as a rookie and affected his play the following two seasons.
Coach Jay Gruden has often come to Doctson’s defense, including saying as recently as March: “I know people are frustrated with the production of Josh Doctson. I think he’s still got a great chance to be a great receiver in the National Football League.”
But Gruden seemed to acknowledge Doctson’s struggles Saturday, saying, “I know that people are looking for more from him.”
Fox analyst Charles Davis had said before news of the Redskins’ decision that if he were in the team’s position, he would make the 26-year-old Doctson prove with his play this year that he deserves a lucrative extension. Davis said that Doctson hadn’t expanded upon the skill set he brought from college at TCU — that of a downfield threat who catches balls over opponents and in the red zone — since coming to the pros.
“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? … 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 had one of the least productive receiving corps in the NFL last season, in part because of Doctson’s ineffectiveness. Gruden has pointed to inconsistent quarterback play, a lack of opportunities and the all-around struggles of the offense as reasons for Doctson’s low numbers. But there’s also a feeling around the organization that Doctson needs to be tougher and more consistent.
Charley Casserly, the former Redskins general manager and current NFL Network analyst, said Doctson hasn’t even lived up to the expectations of a No. 2 wide receiver.
“Maybe at times they could have featured him more, but I understand the reluctance. They haven’t been able to count on him,” Casserly said. “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.”
Doctson is expected to start at one of Washington’s outside wide receiver spots this season, opposite Paul Richardson Jr., who signed a $40 million contract in free agency last offseason.
But the team’s decision-makers have stated a desire this offseason to upgrade at the position, and they began to address their lack of playmakers last week in the NFL draft after not signing any wideouts in free agency. They drafted Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin in the third round and North Carolina State’s Kelvin Harmon in the sixth. They also signed Steven Sims Jr. and T.J. Rahming as undrafted free agents.
Trey Quinn, a seventh-round pick in 2018, is also expected to compete for playing time after an injury-riddled rookie campaign, possibly in the slot receiver role vacated by Jamison Crowder, who signed with the New York Jets in free agency.
The Redskins will have a new starting quarterback in 2019. Colt McCoy, trade acquisition Case Keenum and first-round pick Dwayne Haskins will compete for the job.
Les Carpenter contributed to this report.
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