Number three on my list of Redskins needs this offseason is wide receiver -- right after offensive line and quarterback. For me, upgrading the line remains top priority because everything works better on offense with quality blocking. Next on the list is quarterback because the QB handles the ball on every play from scrimmage. And third is wide receiver because a great wide-out stretches the field, provides a target for the quarterback, and makes big plays.
Washington's long-term talent deficit at wide receiver is one example of the team's problems with talent evaluation. Santana Moss has been the team's #1 receiver by default -- he would have been a first-rate 2nd receiver (or third), but was miscast as the team's alpha receiver. And Moss just had the worst season of his Redskins career.
The Skins brain trust must decide whether to bring back Moss at all, whether to redo his contract to reduce his cap hit, or whether to bring him back at the same price, but in a reduced role. As things stand now, Washington's receiver depth chart would look pretty good if they brought in a true play-making receiver with size and speed. Here's how I see the depth chart:
- Leonard Hankerson (if he can return at full speed from his hip injury)
- Santana Moss
- Jabar Gafney
- Niles Paul or Terrence Austin
Here are the top free agent receiver targets for that #1 spot in the depth chart (in order of desirability):
- Dwayne Bowe -- At 6-2 and 220, the 27 year old Bowe has proven himself to be one of the league's top pass-catching threats -- despite the subpar quarterbacks throwing him the ball since he's been with the Chiefs. Two seasons ago, Bowe caught 15 touchdown passes. With a good QB (whom the Redskins still need to acquire) and a good offensive line (which Washington is working to build), Bowe could solidify his reputation as a top receiver and increase his production significantly.
- Marques Colston -- At 6-4 and 225, Colston is a big receiver with speed. He's been productive, although he's been less of a deep threat the past couple seasons. Still, Colston is exactly the kind of receiver the Redskins need.
- Vincent Jackson -- Still another big receiver -- Jackson is 6-4 and 240, and he can run. He is a dynamic downfield threat who has averaged 17.5 yards per catch for his career. Potential warning signs: he's been a diva, and he really hasn't been all that productive. His top pass-catching year was 68 receptions. Last year, he caught just 60 balls. This is a low number in a league where top receivers have catch totals of 100+.
- Wes Welker -- Welker is on the list because of his outlandish production. He's easily the best slot receiver in the league -- he's averaged 111 catches per year since joining the Patriots. He's not a good target for the Redskins because of his size (he's just 5-9), his pricetag (he'd surely command top dollar to change teams), and his age (he'll be 32 before next season). Plus, it's hard to know how much of Welker's production is Welker, and how much is Tom Brady.
To me, the top choice is simple: Dwayne Bowe. If the Skins aren't able to sign him, they'd do well by signing either Colston or Jackson. My strong preference would be Bowe or Colston.
Some other possible free agent targets:
- Reggie Wayne -- short-term guy since he's 33; probably only if Peyton Manning is the QB
- DeSean Jackson -- little guy who makes big plays, but does Washington need another small receiver who pouts?
- Steve Johnson -- intriguing receiver who will be locked up by Buffalo
- Mario Manningham -- smaller receiver without a history of top-shelf production
- Robert Meachem -- Saints receiver with size and athleticism, but without big-time production in his 4 seasons
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