NFC East: dwayne bowe

IRVING, Texas -- Jimmy Graham was unable to declare himself a wide receiver in an arbitration case, but the New Orleans Saints tight end did fairly well with his reported four-year, $40 million deal that includes $21 million guaranteed.

As the Dallas Cowboys and Dez Bryant look for ways to come to an agreement on a long-term deal so they can avoid any franchise-tag hassle next offseason, can Graham’s deal be something of a barometer for Bryant?

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Graham argued he was a receiver because he lined up mostly off the line. It was an argument that was eventually denied by an arbiter, but there is some truth to what he was saying. Graham is not a tight end in the way Jason Witten is a tight end. But that is his position. Bryant will never be asked to put his hand on the ground to block somebody the way Graham is asked to do at least part of the time for the Saints.

But I digress. Let’s just look at the statistical comparisons of Bryant and Graham. Both players were selected in the 2010 draft. Bryant was a first-round pick, so he has an extra year on his rookie deal. Graham was a third-round pick.

In the past three seasons their numbers are fairly similar.

Bryant: 248 catches, 3,543 yards, 34 touchdowns.
Graham: 270 catches, 3,507 yards, 36 touchdowns.

Any discussions between the Cowboys and Bryant’s agent, Eugene Parker, have been kept under wraps for the most part. Most of the figures thrown around have been by the media. There are seven wide receivers with an average annual value of at least $10 million: Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe and Vincent Jackson.

Marshall, Johnson, Fitzgerald, Wallace, Bowe and Jackson have at least $20 million in guaranteed money in their deals, as does Andre Johnson, who is threatening a holdout from the Houston Texans' training camp.

Graham’s contract puts him in line with receivers if not with the top-paid guys like Johnson ($16.2 million), Fitzgerald ($16.1 million). Harvin ($12.9 million) and Wallace ($12 million) who cashed in during free agency. Bowe averages $11.2 million. The Washington Redskins signed DeSean Jackson to a three-year, $24 million deal that included $16 million guaranteed in the offseason.

So where does Bryant fit in? Should he get Graham’s $10 million average or play out the season and possibly get tagged (that was $12.3 million in 2014)?

There is some middle ground in which both sides can compromise, but Graham's deal could help define just where that ground is, even if he is a tight end (wink, wink).
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have held preliminary discussions about a new contract for wide receiver Dez Bryant. The team does a good job of finalizing new contracts prior to the start of the season with several of their players.

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But over the past two seasons, the Cowboys franchised defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Spencer after there was a failure to reach a long-term deal.

The Cowboys might have a similar situation with Bryant and could franchise him. The franchise tag for wide receivers in 2014 was $12.3 million.

"We have to see," Bryant said Monday when asked about getting franchised. "I know you’re going to hate this answer, but me and my agent (Eugene Parker) have to sit down and talk about that kind of stuff, and the rest of it should really take care of itself."

Bryant isn't thinking about his contract during the organized team activities, which entered the second week on Monday. Bryant's agent has a solid relationship with Cowboys' officials regarding new contracts for players.

Team officials don't seemed worried about getting a deal done.

"The thing about it is when it comes to football, I let that kind of stuff take care of itself," Bryant said. "I love this game and I always have. As long as I keep doing what I'm doing, that stuff will handle itself."

What to pay Bryant is an interesting topic. Calvin Johnson leads wide receivers with an average salary of $16.2 million, followed by Larry Fitzgerald's $16.1 million. Percy Harvin ($12.9 million), Mike Wallace ($12 million) and Dwayne Bowe ($11.2 million) are other top receivers with huge average salaries.

"Truthfully, to be honest, I’m not just talking, I really do let that stuff take care of itself, because I care about this game," Bryant said. "I’m not going to be out here, sitting out and doing all that crazy stuff. I’m just going to play football. If it’s deserved, it will come.

"You know, if that was to happen (a deal done before the season), that would be great. I’m still going to go out there and perform at a high level, because that’s how I work. I’m going to let it take care of itself."
PHILADELPHIA -- The good news for Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly is he doesn’t have to spend the next couple months traveling to high school kids’ homes and recruiting them.

The bad news?

"It’s a different league," Kelly said. "This isn't recruiting where you can go out and offer and try to get them to come. There's a selection in the draft process and we're not going to pick until the 22nd [spot in the first round]. There's 21 other guys that we may covet, but we don't have an opportunity to get them."

If a team drafted 22d every year and did well, it could be awfully good. Based on the last 10 years, drafting only players taken between No. 22 and No. 32 (the end of the first round), a team could have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, wide receivers Dez Bryant and Santonio Holmes, running backs Steven Jackson and Chris Johnson, linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, safety Brandon Meriweather and defensive linemen Cameron Jordan and Sharrif Floyd.

You could do worse. Plenty of teams did do worse. Cleveland took two quarterbacks, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden, at No. 22.

Later we’ll look at some possible players the Eagles could consider at No. 22 in this year’s draft. For now, here’s a quick look at the 22nd pick in each of the past 10 NFL drafts, along with a few players that were on the board at the time (I didn’t go beyond the end of the first round out of fairness; just looking at first-round graded players):

2013: Cornerback Desmond Trufant from Washington, selected by Atlanta.

On the board: Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, WR/Returner Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive end Datone Jones.

2012: Quarterback Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State, selected by Cleveland.

On the board: Linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Nick Perry, running back Doug Martin.

2011: Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo from Boston College, selected by Indianapolis.

On the board: Offensive lineman Danny Watkins, defensive end Cameron Jordan, running back Mark Ingram.

2010: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas from Georgia Tech, selected by Denver.

On the board: Wide receiver Dez Bryant, quarterback Tim Tebow, cornerback Devin McCourty.

2009: Wide receiver Percy Harvin from Florida, selected by Minnesota.

On the board: Offensive tackle Michael Oher, cornerback Vontae Davis, linebacker Clay Matthews.

2008: RB Felix Jones from Arkansas, selected by Dallas.

On the board: Running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Johnson, cornerback Mike Jenkins.

2007: Quarterback Brady Quinn from Notre Dame, selected by Cleveland.

On the board: Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, safety Brandon Meriweather, linebackers Jon Beason and Anthony Spencer, offensive tackle Joe Staley.

2006: Linebacker Manny Lawson from N.C. State, selected by San Francisco.

On the board: Offensive lineman Davin Joseph, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, running back DeAngelo Williams, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.

2005: Wide receiver Mark Clayton from Oklahoma, selected by Baltimore.

On the board: Cornerback Fabian Washington, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Roddy White.

2004: Quarterback J.P. Losman from Tulane, selected by Buffalo.

On the board: Defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, running back Steven Jackson, defensive end Jason Babin.
Yes, they have been unveiling the players in our #NFLRank project, 10 at a time on defense and on offense, since Monday, and today is the first day on which we've had any New York Giants to discuss. If you like the Giants, you can feel free to take that as a positive, since the Giants who are on the lists rank fairly high on it. There are five Giants on the lists -- two on defense and three on offense -- and one of each was revealed today.

Defensive end Justin Tuck ranked No. 52 on the defense list, just ahead of fellow defensive lineman Henry Melton of Chicago and right behind Gerald McCoy of Tampa Bay. Tuck's ranking put him ahead of star pass-rushers such as Carolina's Charles Johnson (No. 55), Dallas' Anthony Spencer (58) and Washington's Ryan Kerrigan (73). I can't tell you names of people who are ahead of him if they're in the top 50, since they haven't been revealed yet, but it suffices to say that Tuck would have ranked much higher if these polls had been taken two years ago. Like, Top 10-high. Tuck believes he's better than many of the pass-rushers on this list, and enters 2013 determined to show people he's still worthy of the rank he might have had on the 2011 version.

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, ranked 56th on the offense list, is in a similar boat. He's behind Miami's Mike Wallace (52) and Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe (55), and my personal belief is that he's a considerably better player than both -- an all-around wide receiver as good as any in the game when he's healthy. But Nicks is coming off a 2012 season in which leg and foot injuries limited his ability to practice every day and play at the level at which he played in the Giants' Super Bowl season the year before. Injuries have been a nagging problem for Nicks throughout his career, and until he rids himself of that problem and that label, it will be hard to argue to strenuously that he belongs much further up the list.
We have talked a lot on here about the contract situation of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who wants to get paid based on his No. 1 wide receiver production of the past two seasons, while his team wants to pay him as the top slot receiver in the league. We don't know how that situation will ultimately resolve itself, but once it does, it could have a ripple effect throughout the league for other wide receivers looking for contracts.

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To that end, Calvin Watkins examines the possible impact Cruz's deal could have on Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, whose contract expires after 2014 and is coming off a year in which he established himself as one of the most dangerous all-around wide receivers in the league:
The Cowboys need to be cautious what they pay Bryant because of his questionable decisions off the field -- which, in fairness, don't seem to be an issue anymore -- and what the top receivers make.

Larry Fitzgerald ($16.1 million), Calvin Johnson ($15.6 million), Andre Johnson ($14.4 million), Mike Wallace ($12 million) and Dwayne Bowe ($11.2 million) are at the top of the average salaries per seasons for wide receivers.

Does Cruz belong at that level? What about Bryant?

Whatever Cruz gets, Bryant's agent, Eugene Parker, will look at and make sure he tells Jerry and Stephen Jones to take care of his client from a financial standpoint.

I think it's impossible to make a prediction about Bryant's deal until we see at least one more year of Bryant. If he continues to show that he's got his off-field life together, and if he continues to play the way he did in 2012, he will indeed be able to ask for at least what Wallace and Bowe received, and likely more. If he slips up again off the field, or his play is inconsistent in 2013, or if he gets hurt, then old questions arise. I don't see Cruz cracking that top five Calvin listed here even if he gets every dollar he's asking for, so the only way he becomes a benchmark for Bryant is if Bryant does not continue to perform at that elite level over the next year or two. But I think 2012 was just the start for Bryant, who has the talent to become one of the very best in the entire league at his position.
It seems clear the New York Giants thought they'd have wide receiver Victor Cruz signed to a long-term deal by now, and that Cruz continues to ask for more than the Giants believe he should be. Asked about the issue this morning in Manhattan, where he was promoting his new book, Giants coach Tom Coughlin articulated the team's side of the issue. Per Jenny Vrentas:
"We want Victor to be a Giant until the end of his career, but obviously he and his people, his agents, they’ve got to make that call. It’s a little bit frustrating in that you’d like to have it done, that’s all."

Cruz is a restricted free agent, so the Giants can keep him for this season with a tender. When asked if they can count on having Cruz in 2013, Coughlin said, "I think so."

They can, but the larger issue for the Giants is always the long term. And with Hakeem Nicks' contract up after 2013, the Giants are in a difficult decision with their two star wide receivers. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported last month that Nicks was the Giants' higher priority, since they consider him the better all-around player and Cruz more replaceable as a slot receiver. But Nicks' injury issues this year helped Cruz's leverage, as did his second straight season with more than 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards. The five-year $56 million contract (with $26 million guaranteed) that wide receiver Dwayne Bowe got from the Chiefs on Monday without even hitting the market also helped the cases of Cruz, Nicks and every other receiver in the league.

Cruz is right to want to cash in now, after two brilliant seasons. But when it comes to contract negotiations, the Giants are patient and believe in their numbers. If their stance is that Cruz and his agents are being unreasonable, they're not likely to take any meaningful steps in their direction. So while Coughlin might be frustrated by the state of the Cruz talks, it's probably part of the Giants' strategy to make Cruz feel the same way.

Ultimately, I think this gets done, since Cruz doesn't want to leave New York and the Giants are likely to pay him more than just slot-receiver money (even if they're not willing to pay him No. 1 wide receiver money). But for now, it feels stagnant, and unlikely to resolve itself in the near future.

Eagles could use help at wide receiver

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Zach Berman is going position-by-position with the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and today's focus is on wide receiver. The Eagles have talent there with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, but in spite of all of their skills neither has proved to be as reliable a performer as the Eagles have long hoped they would be. Could they both snap back to form, stay healthy all year and form one of the top wideout duos in the league? Possibly, but it's unlikely the Eagles can base an offseason plan on that hope, especially since they don't currently know who the quarterback is going to be:
Look for some new additions at both wide receiver and tight end. It’s a loaded free agent class, but the Eagles would need to pay big money to land Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace or Wes Welker. Victor Cruz is a restricted free agent who would cost the Eagles a pick based on his tender. Danario Alexander would be an intriguing option because of his size if he does not garner a high tender.

A big-bodied wide receiver would give the Eagles something they’re missing. Don’t expect the Eagles to spend a first-round pick on a receiver. Virginia Tech’s Marcus Davis is a big receiver who could be taken in a middle round. If the Eagles are looking for the versatile receiver to be used in different roles, few are better in the NFL than West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. Of course, he would require a pick late in the first round or early in the second round.

Much of this of course depends on new coach Chip Kelly's plan for his offense. If Jackson is going to be used, as he himself suggested last week, in a role similar to the one running back DeAnthony Thomas filled for Kelly at Oregon, then it's possible the Eagles could be looking for a more traditional big-target wideout on the outside. They'll need to focus most of their offseason energy and resources on rebuilding the defense, especially the secondary. But if they do something big on offense other than quarterback, wide receiver could indeed be the spot.
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 Colston, Dwayne 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.

The Laurent Robinson situation

February, 23, 2012
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Dallas Cowboys fans, by and large, seem to want their team to re-sign wide receiver Laurent Robinson. He played very well for the team during Miles Austin's injury absences and even after Austin was back. Tony Romo threw 11 of his 31 touchdown passes to Robinson. Only two wide receivers (and one tight end) in the entire league caught more touchdowns. He says he wants to come back. The team says it wants to have him back. It all makes sense, in the abstract.

But as Todd Archer points out, due to the rules and conditions under which Robinson was signed last year, the Cowboys can't re-sign him before the new league year and full-on free agency open March 13. They can talk contract parameters with his agent, but Todd also wisely points out that they probably don't want to give the agent a figure he can go out and shop:
"The conversation with him goes more like, 'What are you thinking and then we'll think about it,'" executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

So, theoretically, if there's a team out there that loves Robinson and thinks he fits its system and wants to throw a bunch of money at him on March 13, the Cowboys are probably going to lose him. While neither Austin nor Dez Bryant is extremely costly, the Cowboys have a lot of needs that are more pressing than No. 3 wide receiver. If Robinson is going to get good No. 2 wide receiver money from some other team, my guess is the Cowboys will let him go.

What will help them keep him is the potentially flooded wide receiver free-agent market. The odds are that Robinson isn't going to be able to cash in his breakout season to the same extent he might have if he weren't competing for teams' affections with the likes of Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Lloyd, Stevie Johnson, Robert Meachem, Reggie Wayne, Mario Manningham, Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson and Wes Welker.

It's possible the Cowboys and Robinson get something reasonable worked out and he returns as a very good No. 3 wide receiver. But if his price starts to go up much beyond that range, don't be surprised if they let him walk and just try and find next year's Robinson the same way they found last year's.

Breakfast links: The cornerback market

February, 21, 2012
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I link, therefore I am.

New York Giants

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com is breaking down his postseason Giants grades and expanding on them position-by-position. His first one is on quarterback, and as you may have guessed, Eli Manning gets an extremely good grade.

Big Blue View is also going position-by-position as it looks ahead to free agency. This edition of "strut 'em or cut 'em" is on wide receivers, specifically Mario Manningham, Domenik Hixon and Devin Thomas.

Philadelphia Eagles

Nick Fierro breaks down the DeSean Jackson situation and presses the point that the Eagles never pay anyone a dollar more than they believe him to be worth. This would seem to indicate that, even if they franchise Jackson, they would look to trade him or (less likely) do a new deal that would allow them to pay him less than the franchise number in 2012.

With the NFL scouting combine looming later this week, Jonathan Tamari writes that the Eagles rely much more on a player's college game film than anything they see at the combine. GM Howie Roseman says the most important information the team learns about players in Indy is medical information.

Dallas Cowboys

In light of Jason Hatcher's comments last week about the Cowboys lacking leadership, Calvin Watkins outlines some examples from the past year in which several players on the Cowboys' roster showed plenty of leadership, albeit in ways more quiet than those for which Hatcher's example, Ray Lewis, is known.

The Cowboys had some interest in cornerback Stanford Routt, but not as much as some other teams did, and Routt signed Monday with the Chiefs. What this means, however, is that the Chiefs are likely to let talented 25-year-old cornerback Brandon Carr leave via free agency, and that adds Carr to the mix of available cornerbacks for the Cowboys to target. Carr is better than Routt, but with star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe still to worry about, the Chiefs appear to have decided to go with a cheaper option.

Washington Redskins

Redskins GM Bruce Allen says the team has "a game plan" for what to do about quarterback this offseason, which is good to know. He doesn't say what that game plan is, which is no fun at all, but he clearly indicates that the team is pursuing several different options and is poised to change the plan depending on outside circumstances, what other teams do, etc. This is kind of the point I've been trying to make. For example, say their top choice is to trade up to the No. 2 pick for Robert Griffin III but someone else beats them to it. They need to be exploring options such as Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton, etc. just in case. I know we're all supposed to be dealing in absolutes in sports these days, but intelligent people who run their franchises intelligently can't afford to operate like that.

Mike Jones looks at the decision the Redskins face on whether to franchise tight end Fred Davis or safety LaRon Landry. I don't bet, but if I did, I'd bet heavy on Davis here. Landry's health questions have become too significant to allow the Redskins to invest guaranteed money in him -- even for one more year. The tight end number is low, and they have reason to believe Davis will be on his best behavior in the wake of his drug suspension.

Manningham and the free-agent WRs

February, 15, 2012
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Wide receiver may be the most intriguing position in free agency this year, especially in the NFC East, where the Washington Redskins need a No. 1, the Philadelphia Eagles need to figure out what to do with DeSean Jackson and the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys could be searching for No. 3s to replace Mario Manningham and Laurent Robinson, respectively.

So, when I came across K.C. Joyner's Insider piece on Insider free-agent wide receivers, I read it. He addresses Manningham, Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Steve Johnson and Brandon Lloyd and evaluates them against each other. Again, it's Insider, so I can't give you the whole thing, but here are a couple of highlights of possible NFC East interest:

1. K.C. says Manningham "could end up as the best value acquisition wide receiver" from among this group. He's just 25 years old, and assuming his postseason and Super Bowl performance doesn't inflate his perceived value, somebody could be getting a guy who still has some upside. K.C. cites Manningham's 2010 statistical profile as an indication that this year's postseason numbers aren't a complete anomaly.

2. I'm picking Bowe and Colston as the Redskins' most likely targets. Given their ages (27 and 28, respectively, though Colston will be 29 before the season starts) and size, they fit what Washington is looking for. I'd been thinking Vincent Jackson, and he still could be the guy, but K.C. says he comes with "consistency issues" and "some concern about his ability to deal with a larger target workload." He just turned 29, so he's not out of Mike Shanahan's target age group for free agents, but he's not completely out of it just yet.

3. I don't think DeSean Jackson hits the free-agent market, because I expect the Eagles to franchise him, but he still will be available in trade. He has a unique skill set (especially if he's going to go back to being a punt-return threat), but he also comes with what K.C. calls "more big-dollar bust potential than any other wide receiver in this year's field."

Just my thoughts on K.C.'s thoughts. Lots still to shake out here. But I thought you guys might find it interesting. Which really kind of goes without saying. I generally don't post things that I don't think you'll find interesting.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Everyone knows the Washington Redskins need a quarterback. Head coach Mike Shanahan might not want to come out and say he needs to fix quarterback this offseason, since he doesn't want to insult the players he currently has at the position. But in a wide-ranging interview in his office Friday, he did acknowledge that it would be good to have a "franchise" guy.

"Everybody wants a franchise quarterback," Shanahan said. "Every team you talk to, if you don't have a franchise quarterback, everybody's looking for a franchise quarterback. I understand. If you're in this business long enough, you understand that everybody wants a Peyton Manning, a Drew Brees, a Tom Brady, and rightfully so. If they're out there, you try and get one. And if they're not, you go with what you have and try and get it done."

I pointed out to Shanahan that part of the problem is that there aren't 32 guys in the world who fit that description. He smiled.

"Not everybody understands that," he said.

I left Shanahan's office with the definite impression that the Redskins would look at every conceivable available option at quarterback this offseason -- drafting one, trading up to get an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III if they need to, or even looking at the possibility of bringing in Manning if the Colts let him go as expected and he can prove he's healthy. Shanahan didn't really discuss any of those specific names, and I didn't expect him to, but every time I raised a specific possibility, he made it clear they'll look at all options.

As for other needs, let's go to your questions.

Jason from Washington, D.C. checked into the mailbag last week and wanted me to ask Shanahan what was "the most glaring positional need" for the Redskins to address in the draft or free agency.

Mike Shanahan: "We've got to get a wide receiver that's a playmaker. You've got to have a No. 1, no question about it. We've got [Santana] Moss, and [Jabar] Gaffney, who's going to be right at 1,000 yards. But you're still looking for a guy that can go the distance and make plays, running on a short shallow cross and go the distance. Everybody's looking for that."


Later in the interview, the topic of rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson came up. Hankerson missed the final seven weeks of the season with a hip injury, but Shanahan's eyes got big when he talked about him.

MS: "I think he's got a chance to be the guy. Health is what we don't know. He's got the hip. But we're hoping he's going to be that guy. You can see in practice where he's a natural. Big. The thing that separates guys at No. 1 is when they can beat bump coverage and they don't have to slow down to beat it. They're able to keep their speed and be able to get by somebody. He's got that."

Of course, if the Redskins are looking for a No. 1 receiver for next year, it's unlikely they'll be willing to take a chance that Hankerson could come that quickly. There are some potential free-agent options in guys like Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Vincent Jackson. And if the Redskisn decide to take a receiver instead of a quarterback in the first round, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is the top option.


Bill from Maryland submitted a question asking what Shanahan's plans are for free agency, and he responded that they'd be similar to what they were last year, when they targeted a couple of specific guys with specific characteristics -- Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Josh Wilson -- at some need positions.

MS: "We'll try and do the same thing this year -- take a look at a couple of upgrades on defense, a couple of upgrades on offense. Guys that have proven themselves, who aren't too old, that we think are still hungry in that 26-, 27-, 28-year-old range. That's what we'd like to target in free agency if we can get those guys, and then try to target everything else in the draft."

So there you go. That's your fun homework assignment for this week. Go look at the lists of prospective free agents and find guys in that 26-28-year-old range who play positions like safety and offensive line and wide receiver and see if you can figure out who they might be targeting. I will of course do what I can to find out more, but it sounds like we can start piecing some possibilities together no?

Lots more to come all this week from my Shanahan interview, including more of your questions.

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