The Redskins are going for it.
By signing DeSean Jackson, Bruce Allen signaled that the Redskins do not intend to muddle through a few years of rebuilding after their 3-13 disaster in 2013. They are going to go for immediate respectability and perhaps even playoff contention.
And with the NFC East consisting of the retooling Giants, the perpetually mediocre Cowboys, and an Eagles team that just lost one of its best players in Jackson, the Redskins could well be in the mix for the division title this year.
Jackson, 27, joins an offense that would not qualify for membership in George Allen’s Over the Hill Gang. Jackson will line up opposite Pierre Garçon (28 by the time the season starts) with Andre Roberts (26) in the slot. Jordan Reed (24) will roam the middle of the field from the tight end slot. Quarterback Robert Griffin III (24) will have the option of passing to one of them or handing off to Alfred Morris (25).
With the exception of Morris, all of those players are under team control for at least three more years. Morris’ rookie contract will be up in two years.
They key contract in the group belongs to Griffin. The last two years of his rookie deal carry cap hits of $5.8 million this year and $6.7 million in 2015. There is a team option for a fifth year that will cost around $15 million in 2016. After that if Griffin lives up to even the lower end of the high expectations for him he will be joining the $20 million per year quarterback club.
It doesn’t take a master capologist to see that the Redskins are trying to take advantage of a window here. The quarterback is playing on a low salary for the next two years and on a moderate to high cap number in the third year. An opportunity to maximize those seasons fell into the Redskins’ lap on Friday afternoon when the Eagles released Jackson. Allen and the organization pounced on it.
There are those who will say that the Redskins should have bypassed Jackson, taken a receiver in a draft that is loaded with them, and stayed patient. There are plenty of other holes on this team that could have been filled with whatever cap dollars the Redskins ended up spending on Jackson. Or with the ability to roll over unused cap space the Redskins could have saved the money for extensions for Griffin, left tackle Trent Williams (slated to be a free agent in 2016), or linebackers Brian Orakpo (2015) and Ryan Kerrigan (2016).
On top of that there are the red flags that are present all around Jackson. Even though the gang allegations have turned out to be more hype than fact, there is still Jackson’s diva image, which by all accounts is well deserved. Giving a potential headache to first-time NFL head coach Jay Gruden is a risky move.
That is a perfectly legitimate point of view. The Redskins are taking a chance here and we will have to wait for it to play out before we know if it pays off.