The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.
That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
Will DeSean Jackson be back?
Tandler: For the second time in three seasons with the Redskins, DeSean Jackson led the NFL in yards per reception. In 2016, he averaged 17.9 yards per catch with 19 receptions that were good for more than 20 yards. The nine-year veteran was second on the team with 1,005 yards receiving.
That is some pretty solid production but the Redskins may have to find a way to replace it in 2017. Jackson is a free agent and his return to the team is very much in doubt.
During the season, Jackson said that he was looking forward to the experience of being in the free agency process for the first time in his career. He was a free agent in 2014 but he came to the Redskins after the Eagles cut him in April, well after most teams had finished with the process. Now he will be on the market with 32 potential suitors.
It seems likely that one of the 31 teams not called the Redskins will offer Jackson a contract that Washington will decline to match. He could get a deal with an average annual value in excess of $10 million and with Jamison Crowder eligible for an extension in a year and Pierre Garçon, also a pending free agent, possibly being a higher priority for the organization, it seems that will be too much for the Redskins.
Jackson may not have the offseason workout habits that the Redskins would like him to have but if it’s a matter of money then it will be understandable if he does end up leaving. Still, that production will have to be replaced and Jackson will get paid well precisely because few have his combination of speed and ball-tracking ability.
Finlay: Seems hard to see a scenario where DeSean comes back to the Redskins, and it will be a big loss for the team, and not just statistically. Jackson's elite speed and ball-tracking ability make him a threat that opposing defense's must constantly account for, in turn opening up the middle of the field for crossing routes and underneath patterns that Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed run so well.
Money will be the deciding factor, as it almost always is. Jackson wants to get paid when he has a chance to look all around the league. There are plenty of teams that could make sense, starting with his old squad in Philadelphia and elsewhere around the league destinations like Tampa, Kansas City and even San Francisco could make sense.
Asked about bringing back Pierre Garçon or Jackson, this quote from Jay Gruden at the end-of-season press conference speaks volumes about the team's plans for DeSean:
When you finish a season in the National Football League, you’re probably dreaming if you think you’re going to have the exact same roster back as you had a year ago. We’re going to have a draft with new players. We’re going to have free agents. We’re going to lose some of our free agents. It’s our job to make sure we target the ones we definitely want back that really have an impact on this football team, not only from a talent standpoint but from a leadership standpoint. Both of those areas are very important to me, almost more so as a leadership standpoint. A lot of these guys have talent, but we have got to make sure we keep the great leaders in this building.
More offseason questions:
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