The Redskins made a shrewd football move on Tuesday, claiming former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers. A former first-round pick, Foster has undeniable talent on the field, and the Redskins assume basically no risk by making the claim.
That's where the good news ends.
Washington added Foster knowing full well the reaction that would come with the news. In the last year, Foster has been arrested three times, including reports of an ugly domestic violence incident just last weekend. That's his second domestic violence incident this year.
That's right, when most of the NFL was preparing for Week 11 matchups, Foster woke up in a Tampa jail. The 49ers, the team that drafted him and invested much into keeping him out of trouble, finally released Foster in an attempt to move forward.
And now, in Week 12, the Redskins picked him up.
Through a strictly football lens, the move has no downside for Washington. When, or if, Foster ever plays for Washington, it will be on a non-guaranteed rookie deal. The Redskins maintain contractual control of Foster through 2020, and could exercise a fifth-year option in 2021.
After the team announced they'd claimed Foster, the NFL announced he will be moved to the Commissioner Exempt list, which means he can't play or practice until the league determines their next step. That could mean suspension. It could mean he's cleared of the charges.
So Foster won't suit up in Washington until his situation has some level of clarity. That's consistent with a statement Redskins VP Doug Williams put out after the move,
Let me be clear, Reuben will have to go through numerous steps including the full legal process, an investigation and potential discipline from the NFL, as well as meetings with counselors associated with the team before he will ever have the opportunity to wear the Burgundy and Gold as a player.
That's all well and good, but it doesn't change both the perception and some of the reality that signing Reuben Foster brings.
Three arrests this year, and one suspension, and still the Redskins thought claiming Foster was worth the trouble.
Domestic abuse is abhorrent behavior that should not be tolerated anywhere. Anywhere. In the NFL, especially in the NFL, after a string of high visibility and terrible incidents, a line needs to be drawn, particularly with repeat offenders.
Some things to clarify: Foster's accuser recanted her previous accusation and he has not been convicted of the latest charges. But this is his second time being arrested for assaulting the same woman in a span of less than a year.
And it's great that the Redskins think insulating Foster with former college teammates from the University of Alabama can keep him focused on not being a deplorable human. But given the track record from his two years in the NFL with San Francisco, that seems like a long shot to actual work. Heck, before he even got to the league, Foster had an altercation with a hospital employee at the NFL Scouting Combine and failed a drug test.
There are ample reasons to be dubious on Foster. And yet, the Redskins rolled the dice, and ignored what the organization had to know would be an instant and overwhelming negative reaction.
The Redskins are likely banking on how the outrage news cycle works. The team will get blasted on social media for signing Foster, but in a few days, the Twitter mob - no matter how justified - will move on to some new target.
The Redskins will be able to ride out this storm. Foster isn't playing anytime soon, and he won't even be around to answer questions. Head coach Jay Gruden might have to answer some questions, but he might just refer to Doug Williams' statement. Players will get asked too, particularly his former Alabama teammates now playing for the 'Skins, but they can say little.
By Thursday night when the Saints play the Cowboys, the NFL world will be back focused on football. By next Monday when the Redskins play the Eagles, few will be thinking about Foster.
None of that makes it right. None of it.
The Redskins made a savvy football move bringing in Foster. At the same time, they made a bad decision.
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