The release of Jabar Gaffney leaves the Redskins with seven wide receivers on the roster; Pierre Garçon, Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss, Joshua Morgan, Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin, and Aldrick Robinson plus WR/KR Brandon Banks. Who will be there when the season starts in September?
For most of last season, the Redskins carried six wide receivers plus Banks on the 53-man roster. As I pointed out the other day, the Redskins may opt to go with three quarterbacks on the roster instead of two, with both Rex Grossman and Kirk Cousins backing up Robert Griffin III. That could mean that there will be room for just five receivers plus a returner or six receivers with one of them doubling as the returner.
The field is a little less crowded than it was a week ago with Gaffney gone and Niles Paul apparently moving to tight end (we will see if he remains there when training camp rolls around). Still, there will be some fierce competition among players who have been around a little while.
Garçon, Morgan, and Hankerson, appear to be locks for jobs. The former two were just given nice free agent contracts and Hankerson will get at least a year to see if he can reach the potential he briefly flashed last year.
The conventional wisdom has been that either Gaffney or Moss would make it to give Robert Griffin III a veteran target. But the release of Gaffney does not guarantee Moss a roster spot. Gaffney told ESPN that Mike Shanahan told him that he would not be a starter and that if he is interesting in coming back he might be able to do so at the veteran minimum salary.
Moss is scheduled to make the same amount of money as Moss and he is unlikely to start either. Add on the fact that Moss is a year and a half older than Gaffney and you have one of the longest-tenured players very much on the bubble.
Armstrong had a bad year in 2011 after a nice season as a 27-year-old rookie. If he can stay healthy, he is the receiver on the roster best suited to taking advantage of RG3’s ability to throw an accurate deep pass.
Austin has been around for two season and never has truly established a role in the offense. Robinson has speed but displayed little else in training camp before spending almost all of last year on the practice squad. The offseason program could benefit him almost as much as anyone
And then there is Banks, who at 5-7 isn’t likely to be much of a threat as a receiver. Although he didn’t break any long returns like he did as a rookie, he did consistently field punts and provide decent field position after kickoffs.
It would not be surprising to see another receiver brought in between now and training camp either via trade or free agency. It likely would be someone who could compete for a job, not someone in the “lock” category.
Unless and until that happens there will be five players competing for two or three roster spots.