The Washington Redskins' signing of kick returner and wide receiver Jerome Mathis made a bit of a ripple over the weekend. The former Houston Texan has a Pro Bowl, multiple appearances on injured reserve and a rap sheet on his resume.
The invitation to Hawaii came after the 2005 season when he averaged 28.6 yards per kickoff return and scored two touchdowns. He spent most of the 2006 and 2007 seasons on injured reserve with various foot and leg injuries.
The Texans had the right to retain Mathis but they chose not to offer him a restricted free agent tender. This was due to a pair of arrests in addition to the IR stints. Last December he was charged with neglect when he allowed some pit bulls to escape his property in Houston. That may have been overlooked but in February he was jailed for assault after being accused of attacking his pregnant girlfriend.
She later dropped the charges but, as we know, that doesn't mean that nothing happened.
One area reporter told ProFootballTalk.com that someone like Mathis never would have been allowed in the building, much less signed, if Joe Gibbs was still around.
That's all well and good, but taking the occasional chance on a guy who had a rocky couple of months in his 25-year life isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm all for high character guys, but Gibbs was 30-34 in his second stint back so maybe a hard and fast policy against giving guys a second chance—like he did occasionally in his first, more successful run—isn't such a good idea.
Mathis got a minimum contract with no guaranteed money, so there is little risk involved. Rock Cartwright is a good kickoff returner, but he's not exactly a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball. Mathis is, or at least he is when he can stay on the field.
At 5-11, he certainly isn't the big wide receiver that the team is looking for. In fact, he hasn't played much receiver at all, with only six career catches.
At this point, Mathis appears to be a moderately long shot to make the roster. His best shot will come if Jim Zorn decides to designate a roster spot for a kick returner. That could cost someone who plays a lot of special teams but not much at a regular position a job, someone like Khary Campbell.