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Monday, March 5, 2012
On the Redskins' hunt for a wide receiver

By Dan Graziano

Yes, it's unusual to spend this much time writing about a Buffalo Bills wide receiver on the NFC East blog, but the Bills' signing of Stevie Johnson has a ripple effect. I do not think the Washington Redskins were planning to target Johnson if he hit the open market, since he's a bit younger and more unproven than the free agents Mike Shanahan has said he'd like to sign. But Johnson's five-year, $36.25 million contract, which includes $19.5 million in guarantees, helps define the market for free-agent wide receivers.

For my money, the best potential free-agent wide receiver this year is Vincent Jackson, who doesn't appear likely to be franchised for the second year in a row by the San Diego Chargers. Jackson is 29 years old, and therefore in Shanahan's preferred age range for free agents. He's also 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and would be the sort of big, physical downfield threat the Redskins' wide receiver corps currently lacks.

When I spoke with Shanahan in December and asked him about offseason priorities, he specifically mentioned wide receiver and said, "We need a No. 1." With as much cap room as the Redskins have, they should be able to afford any of the No. 1 wide receivers available -- be it Jackson, Marques ColstonDwayne Bowe, Pierre Garcon or whomever. All of those guys are likely to demand more than what Johnson just got from Buffalo, and with the possible exception of Garcon their track records indicate that they deserve it. Johnson's deal establishes the bottom of the free-agent wideout market, and is surely helpful to the Redskins as they budget their potential offers.

The issue the Redskins will have is convincing these guys Washington is a place worth playing. Money is one thing -- and don't kid yourself into thinking it's not the first, second and third most important thing to free agents -- but there will be other teams bidding big on these guys, and it would help the Redskins' case if they could tell these free-agent wideouts the name of the quarterback who will be throwing them the ball in 2012, or what they plan to do to upgrade the offensive line and improve their chances of contending for the playoffs in the short term.

That's another reason it'd be nice for the Redskins to have the quarterback situation resolved sooner rather than later -- for example, agreeing on a trade this week with the Rams for the No. 2 overall pick from which they could draft Robert Griffin III. They're going to be big-game hunting for wide receivers, and having their act together in other areas would help ensure that their money looks as enticing as other teams' money does.