Although there is plenty of time for more additions and subtractions can be made from the Redskins receiver corps, the pause button seems to have been hit for the time being so let’s take a look at who stands where.
The one sure starter right now is Pierre Garçon. By virtue of his $8 million per year contract he will be given every opportunity to establish himself as the top receiver on the team if not a true No. 1 receiver.
It also seems like Jabar Gaffney, last year’s leading receiver, will keep his starting job. Although at age 31 his presence would run counter to the youth movement that is afoot in Ashburn, his experience and ability to work the field in Kyle Shanahan’s offense will be of great help while a rookie quarterback, presumably Robert Griffin III, gets his feet under him.
After that the picture isn’t quite as clear. It would appear that Leonard Hankerson will get the first shot at having a substantial role assuming he is recovered from the hip injury that ended his 2011 season before it really got started. Hankerson has said that he will be ready for training camp but athletes frequently are more optimistic about recovering from injuries than medical reality would indicate. It’s wait and see on him until we get closer to camp.
Free agent acquisition Joshua Morgan is also recovering from a season-ending injury. He broke his ankle in the fifth game of the season. Morgan’s contract, which calls for him to make $12 million over two years, shows that he is expected to make a substantial contribution as well. He provides some insurance in case Hankerson is not ready to go.
We’ve covered five receivers and we’re just getting to Santana Moss, the mainstay of the team’s wide receiving corps since he came to Washington in 2005. He has played in 104 games for the Redskins and he has started 104. Will he be a starter in 2012? Will he be on the team at all? Even if you factor in that he missed four games with a broken hand, 2012 was his least productive season since he was a Jet in 2002. It might be tempting to write him off as he will be 33 before the season starts but it may be too soon to do that.
We wrote earlier this week here that Anthony Armstrong could benefit greatly from the presence of Griffin, who has uncanny accuracy on the deep ball. If he can average nearly 20 yards per catch like he did in 2010 they will find a way to get him onto the field.
It’s not a make or break year for Niles Paul but the second-year player should make some strides in OTA’s and in training camp to solidify his spot on the roster. He only caught two passes last year but he only was targeted five times in 162 snaps. His blocking got him on the field on offense and he needs to continue to improve upon his strength while working on his weak areas.
Is this the end of the line for Terrence Austin? With the additions of Garçon and Morgan, somebody has to go. The 2010 seventh-round pick has shown flashes of ability here and there but never with any consistency.
Brandon Banks didn’t work much as a receiver in training camp due to a knee injury and he made the team as a return specialist. There may not be a roster spot for such a player in 2012 so Banks might have to find a way to get some snaps at wide receiver or face getting cut.
Aldrick Robinson was on the roster for one game after spending most of the year on the practice squad. He has speed but his game needs refinement.
So we have nine wide receivers for probably six spots. With Garçon, Gaffney, Morgan, and Hankerson safe, that leaves five fighting for two jobs. And more could potentially be added later in free agency or in the draft.
Mike Shanahan always talks about liking competition. At this position there will be plenty of it.