Wide receiver Andre Roberts (above, with football) signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Washington Redskins to assume the team’s No. 2 receiver role behind wide receiver Pierre Garcon. That plan has now been put on permanent hold. In case you haven’t heard, former Philadelphia Eagles‘ wide receiver DeSean Jackson signed with the Redskins earlier this month, assuming the team’s primary receiver position. The acquisition of Jackson allowed Garcon to become Washington’s No. 2 receiver, giving the Redskins a potent one-two punch at receiver.
That left Roberts as the third receiver, the apparent odd man out, in Washington’s passing game. This isn’t what Roberts signed up for. He could have stayed with the Arizona Cardinals as their third receiver. Roberts also had a better chance to win with the Cardinals, despite the fact that they play in the NFC West, the NFL’s toughest division. Arizona finished 10-6 in 2013, which suggests their upside is better than the dysfunctional Redskins, who finished 3-13 in 2013.
Roberts won’t have to worry about his reduced role in Washington. Jackson’s talent demands that he be accounted for at all times, sometimes in the form of double coverage provided by opposing safeties. Garcon led the NFL in 2013 with 113 receptions, which illustrates his importance to the passing game. Teams might have to double team him as well. Roberts will fill the slot receiver role, which will mostly place him in single coverage against an opponent’s third string cornerback. He can serve as a safety valve receiver for quarterback Robert Griffin III, who’s looking to rebound from a subpar 2013 season. Roberts caught 43 passes for the Cardinals last season. That figure looks to improve, considering all the attention that will be paid to Garcon and Jackson.
Roberts can also provide efficiency to a special teams’ unit desperate for a spark as a punt returner. I know what you’re thinking: the Redskins didn’t bring Roberts to Washington to return punts. Currently, Washington doesn’t have anyone on their roster that can consistently return punts. Aging wide receiver Santana Moss can’t be expected to fill that role consistently. However, Roberts has returned 40 punts for 275 yards in his four-year career. The Redskins collectively returned 35 punts for 225 yards last season. While Roberts will never be compared to great punt returners like the Atlanta Falcons’ Devin Hester, he would be a more viable option than Moss to return punts.
Washington needs as many playmakers as they can get. Roberts will hopefully get the opportunity to make something happen whenever he touches the ball, whether on offense or on special teams. While Jackson will get the majority of publicity on offense, Roberts will need to play a major role if the Redskins are to return to respectability.