By Rich Tandler
With the championship competition phase of Redskins’ 2011 season essentially over, let’s take a look at what really matters right now. What pieces of the puzzle for 2012 and beyond are in place? Where will the Redskins have to look for help in free agency and in the draft? Over the next two weeks we’ll put the roster under the microscope and see who might be key members of a playoff team and which ones need to be left on the side of the road.
Key starters: Fred Davis, Leonard Hankerson
Marginal/depth players: David Anderson, Niles Paul, Terrence Austin, Santana Moss, Logan Paulsen, Chris Cooley
Out: Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney
Davis is on pace to gain a little over 1000 yards on 78 receptions this year, a solid performance considering what a mess the quarterback situation has been this year. His contract is up after this year but it seems to be a pretty good bet that the Redskins will lock him up for the next several seasons.
We should be careful about declaring that Hankerson is a future star. The fact that he broke out with eight receptions for 106 yards in his second game as a full-time starter certainly was promising. But with his hip injury we’ll have to press the pause button on this story and see if he can have a true breakout season in 2012. Still, as of right now he looks like a solid building block.
It seems odd to see Moss and Cooley listed as marginal players when they have been mainstays for so long. But it seems unlikely that either will be with the team in 2013 and if they are they will be reserve and role players. Moss probably will be around next year for the second season of the three-year contract he signed in August. But he will be 34 in 2013 and if he is here he should be pushed down the depth chart by younger talent. Cooley’s future has been discussed and he could be asked to take a pay cut to remain a Redskin next year, when he will be 30.
Paul and Austin are late-round draft picks who have an opportunity to get themselves established. We will have to see if they develop beyond special teams and role players and become regular contributors on offense. If one of them does it will be a nice boost; if both do it would be a major plus for the Redskins.
There is no reason to think that Paulsen won’t continue in his present role as a blocking tight end and special teams player for the next few years. His undrafted free agent contract will keep him under the team’s control for the next two seasons at a very reasonable rate.
Anderson, 28, is under evaluation. He will suit up for his third game and he may take the place of Gaffney, who is about to turn 31, for the next couple of years. The Redskins would like him to be reasonably productive and step aside if another young receiver is able to step up.
Stallworth was released and then recently resigned and it seems unlikely that he will be back next year.