Continuing on our position by position look at the state of the Redskins, we now move to wide receiver - the position that has been an area of need pretty much since the Posse broke up.
Question number one, of course, is what to do with Santana Moss, who is entering free agency.
I can live with Moss staying if he gives a substantial home town discount, though even then I don’t prefer it. Given that there are a pretty good number of wide receivers on the market, I can’t help but think that that money could be better spent on a younger man. Whatever 27 year old gets signed may not be an upgrade on Moss’ talent immediately, but he is certainly more likely to be more productive three or four years down the line (when Moss will be 35 and 36). Handing new contracts to 32 year old speed receiver, I think, is just something that should generally be avoided. My first thought is to sign the Cardinals’ Steve Breaston to man the slot – he’s a pretty good player who is at home in the slot and won’t come at a crippling price tag. But there are other options as well.
Anthony Amstrong, despite some troubling inconsistency, has shown he belongs in the NFL and has probably nailed down a starting job for next season. He started the year at flanker, replacing Moss (who moved inside to the slot) in three wide receiver sets. This is probably where he should be next year as well, despite being forced to move to the X/split end spot due to the total absence of production from Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams.
Now speaking of that X job… filling it at least adequately is actually quite critical. If that doesn’t happen, then either Armstrong or Moss/Moss’ replacement has to move out there, which would of course then leave the slot position poorly manned. And I’m inclined to use free agency here rather than the draft. As mentioned earlier there are quite a few WRs on the market, and I’m not inclined to sit around for two or three years waiting to find out if our draftee is capable of playing at the NFL. A solid but unspectacular player, for example the Jaguars’ Mike Sims-Walker, could provide much needed adequacy as a possession receiver at a reasonable price (sure we can dream dreams of Sidney Rice and Santonio Holmes, but even the Redskins can sign only so many budget-busting free agents and I would prefer to see them at other positions). And most importantly, he would allow the luxury of keeping the other two receivers in their proper positions to maximize their skills.
Of the other receivers on the roster, Terrence Austin has shown the potential to perform at the NFL level, but has a long way to go before he can be thought of as top-3 material. And I remain skeptical that Brandon Banks can be consistently useful on offense on anything more than the occasional gadget play, which I generally frown upon anyhow. Since the Redskins need at least two new guys to get significant playing time right away, I am rather convinced that free agency is the best way to address this need (we will later be going into more detail on specific targets at each position).
Oh, and you may note that I have not even mentioned Malcolm Kelly to this point. It appears that Mike Shanahan sees something in Kelly, so if healthy he should be given a chance to compete for time. But hoping for health seems like a long shot. And even if he can stay on the field, you have to figure that with all the downtime his development must be stunted, and he may not be all that more advanced in his understanding of the game than a rookie. If he contributes next year, then that’s great and we should think of it as found money. But until we see him playing regularly, I think it is necessary to plan future rosters as though Kelly does not exist.