Positional Analysis: Wide Receiver Wide Open

With one starter gone and the other on the way out, the Redskins' receiver corps is certain to undergo a change of personnel. Will there also be a change of style, to a more vertical approach?

Santana Moss just signed a contract for #1 receiver money and he will start. His deal raised some eyebrows, but it turns out that it's a slightly better deal for the Redskins than originally thought. According to information obtained from the NFLPA, Moss signed for seven years and about $31 million. With the last two years carrying salaries in the $3-$4 million range, it may turn out to be a five-year, $22.3 million deal. It will be very easy to figure out if this is a good transaction for the Redskins. If they do go with the vertical offense that Joe Gibbs has promised and if they're able to keep Patrick Ramsey upright so that he can execute it, Moss should be a valuable asset. If they continue to dink and dunk, as they did much of last year, the deal will be a monumental waste of money.

Who will start opposite Moss? Many observers, this one included, think that Taylor Jacobs will be given every opportunity to earn the job. The 2003 second-round draft pick out of Florida spent much of his rookie season on the injured list and caught just 16 passes for 178 yards last year. He is performing well in offseason workouts and is looking like he's ready to take the next step. Jacobs has the speed, size, and athletic ability to become a solid starter if not a star. He could be the reason that the Redskins passed on taking a WR in the draft despite the likely departure of both 2004 starters at that position. They may well have believed that they had a replacement already.

One of those 2004 starters has already departed with Laveranues Coles having been traded for Moss. The other is 2001 first-round draft pick Rod Gardner. He remains in limbo, having been asked not to volunteer to participate in the voluntary workouts at Redskins Park after he and the Redskins mutually agreed that Gardner should find a new team to play for in 2005. While there was interest by some teams in making a trade, Gardner's contract status (one year left a $2.1 million and unrestricted free agency after that) made all of the suitors back off. The Redskins weren't even able to get an offer of a conditional second-day pick for Gardner. While it doesn't look like he'll be around for the '05 season, how and when he may leave is very much up in the air. It's possible, though not likely, that they will keep him into training camp and see if another team loses a projected starter to injury and will deal for Gardner out of desperation.

David Patten came as a free agent carrying three Super Bowl rings after starting 44 games over four years in New England. He's a smallish receiver (5-10, 190) but he is capable of going over the middle. Still, going deep is his forte as his 18.2-yard average on 44 catches last year demonstrates. Patten could end up starting, but he may be more suited to a role as a third receiver working out of the slot to take advantage of his quickness and ability to pick up yardage after the catch.

James Thrash will continue his role as special teams ace and spot receiver. Darnerien McCants will probably stay on the roster if Gardner winds up leaving, but if Gibbs continues to insist that non-starters must play special teams, he'll end up being inactive most of the time. Another holdover listed as a WR is Antonio Brown, whose duty was limited exclusively to punt returns last year. Moss is also a punt returner, but Gibbs generally doesn't like to see his starters in such positions, so Brown may stick. Jimmy Farris is a four-year veteran whose action with the Falcons has come primarily on special teams.

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