Just after I posted about the Washington Redskins signing free-agent wide receiver Pierre Garcon, Adam Schefter reported they were on the verge of a contract with free-agent wide receiver Josh Morgan, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. It's been a busy first couple of hours of free agency for the Redskins, who also have re-signed defensive lineman Adam Carriker to a contract extension.
Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network reported the Carriker deal first, and he reports that it's for $20 million ($7 million guaranteed) over four years. A short time later, Carriker tweeted, "I'm back! #resign94 complete." Carriker is an important piece for the Redskins, a favorite of the fans and the coaching staff who helped the conversion to a 3-4 defense, and with him back and Jarvis Jenkins expected back from his rookie-year injury, the Redskins should have good depth along the defensive line.
Now, as for the wide receivers, they're not the ones for whom you were hoping. I understand that. Vincent Jackson was the big prize, but he appears to be off to Tampa Bay, and Garcon was probably about the best option left on the market after Jackson. But he is not an established No. 1 wide receiver. He could turn into one. He turns 26 in August and caught 70 balls for 947 yards in Indianapolis last year without a real quarterback. He's a good fit for Mike Shanahan's offense, and he has the ability to blossom as a No. 1 wide receiver if he clicks with the Redskins' new quarterback, who's expected to be 22-year-old Robert Griffin III. And that kind of future bet was the best the Redskins could do if they weren't going to get Jackson.
Similar situation with Morgan, who's also 26 and played just five games for the 49ers this past year before breaking his leg and missing the rest of the season. Mike Shanahan has been looking for free agents who have done some work to establish themselves as NFL players but are still hungry and young enough to grow with the team over the coming years. This was the thought last summer behind the signings of guys like Josh Wilson and Barry Cofield, and Shanahan is sticking with it. He targets guys he thinks will fit what he plans to do on offense and who are young enough to still be with the team once it's a contender. His hope is to build a team that can contend for a number of years, not just for one.
So while the Redskins needed quality and not quantity at wide receiver, without Jackson and Marques Colston (who re-signed with the Saints earlier in the day) they didn't have too many top-level options. So they're banking on younger guys who can grow up around Griffin and hoping they're getting them right before they take off.
In that respect, the criticism the Redskins are taking for reverting to old habits seems unfair. These aren't aging, big-name stars who are on the downsides of their careers. They are players who fit what the Redskins are trying to build. And whether it works out or not, this is the residue of an actual plan, not just a dartboard free agency approach that looks like what they used to do.