5 Washington Redskins Who Mean the Most to Their Team’s Future
5 Washington Redskins Who Mean the Most to Team’s Future
The NFL is a highly unstable league. Injuries, strength of schedule and a hard salary cap can decimate teams from one year to the next. No team knows this harsh reality better than the Washington Redskins.
In 2012, the Redskins were the surprising force of the NFC East, led by their rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to the team’s first divisional title since 1999. Their Cinderella run abruptly ended when Griffin injured himself in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
The narrative of Washington’s 2013 season read like a Stephen King horror novel. Following offseason arthroscopic knee surgery, Griffin struggled to return to form and the Redskins plummeted to the basement of the NFL. Immediately following a disappointing 3-13 season, the Redskins high-profile owner Dan Snyder fired two-time Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan.
The volatility of the past two seasons puts the Redskins in an unusual situation as they enter the 2014 offseason. They are $20 million under the cap and can play an aggressively active role this offseason. In fact, the Redskins already made an early free agency splash by locking up shutdown cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a four-year contract. The Redskins have the flexibility to continue freely spending, but doing so might not be in the best long-term interests of the team.
Snyder is notorious for making horrible offseason moves in years past. The Redskins $100 million contract to Albert Haynesworth was a disaster and the $30 million Adam Archuleta experiment lasted only one year before the team shipped him off to the Chicago Bears for a sixth-round draft pick. Upper management would be wise to exercise conservatism and save enough cap room to retain its strong young nucleus. This is a list of the five players the Redskins must hold onto in order to entrench themselves as perennial Super Bowl contenders.
5. Pierre Garcon
Pierre Garcon, a former sixth-round pick, was signed to the Redskins on a five-year $42.5 million contract before the 2012 season. A Plantar Plate tear in Garcon’s right foot shortened his initial season with the team, but he rebounded this past year by collecting 1,346 receiving yards, a personal best. His 113 receptions in 2013 broke the Redskins’ previous all-time reception record of 106, held by Hall of Famer Art Monk. Fortunately for the Redskins, Garcon is still under contract for three more years, allowing him to continue improving his chemistry with Griffin.
4. Brian Orakpo
Brian Orakpo enters the 2014 offseason as a free agent looking for a deservedly hefty payday. In his five-year career, Orakpo has been to three Pro Bowls (not excluding the season he spent on the sidelines with a torn pectoral muscle). He is a dominant pass rushing presence, often commanding double teams and creating mismatches. Orakpo’s consistent presence in the backfield of the opposition is a headache to quarterbacks and the best counter to the pass-friendly systems of most modern NFL offenses. The Redskins should allocate a substantial amount of their cap flexibility towards a long-term deal with Orakpo.
3. Alfred Morris
The dynamic play of 2012 sixth-round pick Alfred Morris is one of Washington’s most pleasant surprises. The 5-foot-10, 218 pound running back has flattened defenders with a downhill running style to collect 20 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards in his first two seasons. After being snubbed in 2013, Morris recently earned a trip to Hawaii as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2014. He still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, before the Redskins try to fatten his pockets with a lucrative extension.
2. Trent Williams
The Redskins’ left tackle Trent Williams is the stabilizing force on the offensive line responsible for protecting Robert Griffin’s blindside. Over the past two years Williams has served as a pillar of consistency, earning back-to-back Pro Bowl selections. His physical play has garnered widespread league respect and he is recognized by peers and pundits alike to be one of the game’s premier left tackles. Williams has two years remaining on his rookie contract before the Redskins have to ante up and resign the man who goes by the moniker “Silverback”.
1. Robert Griffin III
The future success of the Redskins organization resides in the development (or lack thereof) of Robert Griffin III. A collegiate Heisman Trophy winner and track hurdler at Baylor University, Griffin represents a new, mobile and athletically gifted breed of quarterback.
Griffin’s immediate NFL success translated into overwhelming public adoration and earned the quarterback lucrative endorsement deals with well-branded companies. Almost overnight he became a media darling.
However, Griffin’s critics have questioned whether the young quarterback’s primary focus is on his own professional and financial successes or the betterment of the team. He plays with a reckless headfirst style that frequently exposes him to injury. The highly competitive Griffin demands to play through his injuries, an admirable but shortsighted outlook.
If Griffin wants to continue to develop his game to its sky-high potential, he must learn to employ a long view and develop a strong rapport with new head coach Jay Gruden. If he doesn’t, the Redskins will stay rooted in obscurity. If he does, it’ll be a nightmare for the rest of the NFC East.