February 9, 2014 in Redskins Personnel
With the report the other day that the Redskins were interested in bringing back WR Santana Moss, a large debate started throughout Redskins Nation about whether or not this was a good idea. The general consensus seems to be that this is a bad idea and it is time to move on from Moss. Now it is easy to see why that is the current conventional wisdom, as Moss, who will be 35 next season, is coming off his worst season of his career. Moss last year dropped a number of big catches and didn't get open on a consistent basis, for many this is a sign that Moss is done and should be put out to pasture. But would it be such a bad thing for the Redskins to sign Moss for next season? When you really look at it, it doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
While Moss struggled mightily this past year, the season before Moss was an instrumental part of the Redskins offense. Without Moss in 2012, the Redskins likely wouldn't have won the division, and Robert Griffin III might not have had such a successful rookie year. Moss came up with clutch catch after clutch catch that season, many of which resulted in TD's. While it's possible that Moss can't return to that level of play next season, it's not hard to imagine that he can be as effective in 2014. And given how small of a deal that he'd have, it would be extremely low risk for the Redskins.
Last season Moss took a pay cut, reducing his nearly $4 million salary to $2 million to help out with the Redskins cap situation. Unlike a number of other players, this wasn't a restructure where the money was pushed to another season, but a straight pay cut. So while Moss had a pretty un-productive season, his 42 catches, 450 yards and 2 TD's didn't come at a steep price for the Redskins. In fact his season while disappointing, wasn't as bad when looking at it from a general perspective of production vs cost. Where it was such a let down was based on Moss's previous success. Moss likely this year would have to settle for a smaller deal, and will likely have to play for the veterans minimum deal which for this season will be $0.955 million for a player with 10 or more years of service time. If Moss were to sign that deal and receive no more than $65K in a signing bonus, the Redskins could use the veterans exception, and reduce the cap hit of the deal. The cap hit would go from $1.020 million to $0.635 million. That is about as cheap as you are going to get for a veteran receiver and there would be little guaranteed money.
One thing that has been missing from the discussion about whether or not to re-sign Moss is the fact that there is little to no risk here. If Moss were to take the veteran deal listed above, then the only guaranteed money is the $65K. If the Redskins are in camp and Moss gets hurt, isn't playing well, or simply gets beaten out by other options, the Redskins could cut him and it would only cost them $65K, which is really nothing. Moss is a pretty good and cheap insurance policy to have around and there is little downside for doing a deal like this. So from a financial stand point there is nothing wrong with bringing Moss back.
Having a veteran receiver is something that could be pretty important for the Redskins next year, even if it is just in camp. Yes Pierre Garcon has been in the league 6 years now, but Moss has 13 years and has been in a variety of situations and has had to help break-in a number of quarterbacks. With Robert Griffin III struggling so much last season, particularly with his timing, surrounding him with a bunch of brand new receivers could be a recipe for disaster. With Leonard Hankerson's status up in the air as he returns from an ACL injury, Moss could serve as that veteran option to go along with Garcon for Griffin. Moss has worked with Griffin quite a bit these past two years and unlike guys like Garcon or Hankerson, he hasn't missed any significant time do to injury. The familiarity is definitely there with Griffin, so that could give Moss another advantage over a stop gap free agent veteran from another team.
In addition to being a team leader, a cheaper option, and a receiver who is familiar to the young developing quarterback the Redskins are hoping to build around, Moss has one final positive that he brings to the table; versatility. Moss Has shown himself to be quite effective in the slot and running the shorter, quicker routes. Moss though also has plenty of experience on the outside and can play that in a pinch if necessary. He's a good blocker in the run game and can be used as a player who can line-up in the backfield or on reverses. On special teams Moss can also be a player used to return punts. He may not be as dynamic there as he once was, but he's a better option than a number of guys the Redskins tried there in 2013. Though Washington will clearly look to upgrade the position, it's nice to know they have a competent back-up option.
Saying all of this is not to suggest that Moss is going to be the be all, end all for the Redskins wide receiver woes next season, but rather to point out that bringing him back isn't a bad thing. In fact there are a number of positives that come with bringing Moss back, even if it's just for a look in camp. Moss is going to be a cheaper option than just about any free agent (particularly from a cost vs production standpoint), and having him around means that Redskins won't be forced to rush a rookie into more playing time or count on a guy like Hankerson who is coming back from a serious injury. Bringing Moss back at the veteran minimum (which is highly likely), could be seen as smart, shrewd move and one that is extremely low risk and could have a moderate to high reward.