Heading into 2018 in the final year of his rookie contract, Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder would be open to a contract extension this offseason, per a source with knowledge of the situation.
Crowder "likes it" playing in Washington and feels very comfortable with his role in head coach Jay Gruden's offense, per the source.
In three years with the Redskins, Crowder has averaged about 750 receiving yards and four touchdowns per season. His best year came in 2016, when he grabbed 67 passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns.
Expectations were high for Crowder coming into the 2017 season, and while he had a fine season, the year was not a big success. He ended 2017 with 66 catches for 789 yards and three touchdowns. All three marks were lower than 2016.
There are reasons for the statistical dip.
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Crowder played much of the year injured, dealing with hamstring and hip injuries that dated all the way back to training camp. Further, Crowder saw much more attention from opposing defenses in 2017 than he had in 2016 or 2015.
"I think he was dealing with something early in the season. I think he had some soft tissue injuries here and there that may have slowed him down a little bit, but I think towards the end of the year he started feeling a lot better," Gruden said. "Probably didn’t get the production we all anticipated we would get and I think a lot of that has trickle-down effect with some of the players that we lost not only at receiver, tight end and running back but also at offensive line from time to time."
Much of that difference came from playing with Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor instead of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Crowder plays the slot receiver position, on the inside of offensive sets, and certainly benefits when there is more production coming from players on the outside.
Still, Crowder finished 2017 as the Redskins leading receiver.
"I don’t have any concern," Gruden said of Crowder going forward.
In the past, Washington has moved to extend some standout players' contracts before they reach free agency. Typically, these players are drafted and developed by the Redskins.
Last season, Chris Thompson and Morgan Moses were the latest Redskins players to get contract extensions from the club, and in the recent past, players like Jordan Reed, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams all fit that bill.
A fourth-round pick in 2015, Crowder would be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season. That could mean the chance at a big payday, especially if he's able to break through the 1,000 yard mark next season.
For Crowder, however, there could also be value in a contract extension. The 5-foot-8 wideout from Duke has never made more than $1 million per season, and in 2018 will make about $850,000.
While that's good money in the real world, in the NFL, it's peanuts for a productive receiver.
Last season, Pryor made $6 million and had just 20 catches for 240 yards. Doctson, playing on a first-round rookie deal, made $2.2 million and had 35 catches for 502 yards.
An extension for Crowder would very likely come with a healthy pay raise, and while he wouldn't get to pursue free agency in 2019, he would have long-term financial security on a team he likes.
For the Redskins, an extension could provide roster clarity and keep the cost down for a player of Crowder's talent. As it stands now, the Redskins only have Crowder, Doctson and seldom used Robert Davis and Maurice Harris under contract. Barring a collapse in 2018, Crowder's price would be much higher on the open free agent market than it would this offseason with an extension.
While the slowdown in receiving production can be explained, his output as a punt returner draws more confusion. After two solid seasons returning punts, Crowder struggled in that area in 2017. Asked about punt returns for next season, Gruden allowed that changes could be coming.
"He had a couple dropped, muffed punts and he had a couple fumbles and that’s something that we cannot have," the coach said. "We need to create big plays. We didn’t get it done this year. I’m not blaming Jamison. Maybe we have got to block better for him, give him better looks, but [it’s] something we have to address."
Still, Crowder's contractual value comes from his skill as a slot receiver, not a punt returner. Should he lose that gig in 2018, it will not have much impact on his free agent market the following season.
The Redskins front office has done a good job of identifying "core Redskins" players they want to keep, and locking those players up before they get to free agency. If Jamison Crowder is one of those players, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest he should be, the young wideout might be next in line for an extension.