By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
Tight end Fred Davis is one of the few survivors of the Jim Zorn era. In the past two years he has had what appeared to be breakout seasons interrupted, first by a drug suspension and last year by a torn Achilles.
Davis, 27, will become an unrestricted free agent on March 12. Although estimates vary, he will likely command a multi-year contract with a salary that will strain the cap-strapped Redskins’ budget. Should the Redskins stretch their salary structure to fit Davis into it? Or should they let him walk? Redskins insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler debate the question.
Rich Tandler: If you take Davis’ numbers over the past two years and project them into a 16-game season you get 70 receptions for 944 yards and three TD’s. Those are better numbers than Vernon Davis or Jermichael Finley normally put up. You can’t let productivity like that walk away. The Redskins do need to practice fiscal restraint this year but exceptions always can be made. They are set up well in regards to the cap after the $18 million penalty is gone and it would be a mistake to let a one-year squeeze cost the Redskins the services of an offensive weapon that would be very hard to replace.
Tarik El-Bashir: Let me start by saying this: Fred Davis is a special talent who has the potential to become one of the top tight ends in the game. But I’ve got numbers for you, too. The Redskins went 7-2 in nine regular games after he got hurt, averaging 26.1 points per. And let's not forget that Davis is one off-the-field slip-up from a year-long ban. More important, the salary cap-strapped Skins have bigger needs elsewhere – such as the secondary, which ranked near the bottom in most statistical categories. Davis is a very good player who might evolve into a great one. But right now he’s a luxury item and the Skins are on a shoestring budget.
Tandler: Yes the Redskins went 7-2 with Logan Paulsen starting at tight end. But they also finished 7-2 and won the division with Madieu Williams starting at free safety. Is that a reason to stand pat at the position? Yes, the Redskins have other needs. But a solid tight end is a need. Good teams get good and stay good by keeping their own talent. If the Redskins had a 27-year-old safety who had been with the team for 5 years and was top 10 at his position, I’d say make do at tight end and do what it takes to sign the safety. You win Super Bowls by acquiring and keep players like Fred Davis, not by letting them walk.
El-Bashir: I don’t understand how a team that’s $4 million over the salary cap and facing an $18 million cap penalty can afford to keep Davis. Just retaining their restricted free agents and signing their 2013 draft picks figures to be a struggle. I’m also confident that the Redskins have enough firepower on offense to thrive without a top end tight end who is coming off surgery on his Achilles'. The time to bring balance to this roster is now. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett used smoke and mirrors down the stretch, managing to squeeze just enough out of his unit. He’s going to need more substance next season, and the $5-6 million per year the team will save by letting Davis walk could be used on a veteran safety and a cornerback -- the two positions the Redskins really need to address.
What's your take? Should the Redskins do what they need to do to squeeze Davis in under the cap? Or should the move on?