By Rich Tandler
The Redskins website recently ran an article with quotes from Tim Hightower and Mike Shanahan about the possibility that the running back, an unrestricted free agent, will be back in Washington.
Hightower said that he wanted to be back and Shanahan said good things about the player and everything seems to be all warm and fuzzy. However, there is a long way to go between exchanging pleasantries and exchanging signatures on an actual contract.
The two sides could have very different views of what that contract should look like. Hightower is coming off a torn ACL he suffered in mid-October. The Redskins might want to sign him to a short-term deal with little guaranteed money and possibly some lucrative incentives.
Hightower’s camp, on the other hand, will point out that this is the first injury of his career. He had played in 53 of a possible 53 games before going on injured reserve after the Redskins’ fifth game last year. He’s not “injury prone”, he just suffered an injury.
There also is the question of just how productive a back Hightower has been and can be. He has had some pretty good seasons, gaining over 1000 yards in combined rushing and receiving in 2009 and getting 872 in 2010. But his career average is just 3.9 yards per rush and he never has carried a full load of rushing attempts for an entire season.
Hightower brings some things to the table that don’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet, like excellent pass blocking ability. His agent will surly counter with Shanahan’s own words praising Hightower’s blitz pickup prowess.
Some back and forth probably has taken place and negotiations will intensify as the March 13 start of free agency approaches. Perhaps Hightower will want to test the market and see if the grass is greener elsewhere.
It is difficult to even take a stab at what a contract for Hightower will end up looking like. He made in the vicinity of $1 million last year under the restricted free agent tender. It is doubtful that he will make much more than that whether it’s a one-year deal for just 2012 or as an average over the course of a multiyear deal.
There seems to be a good chance that Hightower will be back with the Redskins in 2012. But there is a sizeable gap that has to be bridged before that happens.