Redskins

Redskins

The Redskins owe nearly $19 million this season to the tight end position, highest of any club in the NFL. Much of that will be paid between two players: Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis.

An elite athlete and route runner, Reed has performed among the best tight ends in the NFL when healthy. That last happened for Washington during the 2016 season, when he went to the Pro Bowl and caught 66 passes. In the last two seasons, however, Reed has started just 13 games combined.

Look at it this way for Reed: In 2015 and 2016, he went for more than 1,500 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. In 2017 and 2018, he amassed less than 800 yards receiving and four TDs. 

Reed can be a star, he's proven that, but Washington hasn't seen that version of the former Florida Gator in some time. Slated to make nearly $10 million this season, Reed's contract no longer has guaranteed money attached despite running through the 2021 season. 

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There is nothing to not like about Reed. He works very hard and is well liked in the locker room. Coaches believe in him and players support him. Reed is a legit great guy. Still, the 'Skins need more production out of him, both to succeed on the field and to validate the hefty price tag. 

Much of the same can be said for Vernon Davis. He is one of the best people in the NFL, illustrated by being a finalist for the NFL Man of the Year award, and a stalwart in the community. He keeps himself in excellent shape and still has top-flight speed for any offensive skill player, let alone a tight end. But last year, Davis caught just 25 balls for 367 yards and two TDs. And this year, his 14th NFL season, he will earn more than $6 million. The production needs to increase to validate the salary. 

 

Beyond the high salaries, playing both Reed and Davis presents some problems for 'Skins head coach Jay Gruden.

"Last year we tinkered around with two different two tight end sets, actually we had three. We had [Jeremy] Sprinkle and Vernon, Sprinkle and Jordan, and Vernon and Jordan. It's kind of a pain in the neck when you have all these plays," Gruden said. "If you're going to feature the running game it's probably going to be Sprinkle more so, then Jordan and Vernon are standing next to you and you're like 'hey, how you doing? Why don't you get out there, you guys are our best receivers.'"

The issue at hand is that Davis and Reed aren't great run blockers, and in turn, opposing defenses can key on the pass when they're on the field. That kills play action. 

When the Redskins drafted Jeremy Sprinkle three years ago, the hope was he could become a dominant run blocker to pair with Reed and/or Davis. He hasn't. 

As of now, the Skins look like they're approaching 2019 with the same problems that plagued them in 2018 at the tight position. The team did not draft any potential replacements. 

Don't count out Matt Flanagan, who was on the roster at the end of last season and proved a willing and capable blocker. What spot will he take? Hard to know, but it's unlikely the Redskins would carry four tight ends on their roster. 

A fifth-round pick in 2017, Sprinkle has seven catches in two seasons with the Skins. That won't guarantee him a spot on the final 53. Could there be a battle between Sprinkle and Flanagan? Sure. There are other tight ends on the roster too including J.P. Holtz, who got called up late last year but saw no game action, Manasseh Garner and Kano Dillon. 

Another thing to keep in mind for a cash-strapped Redskins team: Sprinkle and Flanagan are very cheap options. Washington must pat Alex Smith more than $40 million between the next two seasons. This team can afford to shed some salary, and maybe some of that will come post June 1.

The Redskins have a lot of skill at the top of their tight end depth chart in Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. Now they need production to meet the skill. A new quarterback could help a lot, as could a healthy offensive line. A fully healthy Jordan Reed would help too, obviously. 

 

With the money being spent and the talent on the roster, the tight end position in Washington should be a strength. In 2019, it needs to be. 

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