The Redskins signed Aldrick Robinson to a one-year contract sometime last week. There was no doubt that Robinson would be back. Although he technically was a free agent since his contract expired he has only two accrued years of NFL service. That meant he was an exclusive-rights free agent and his options were to stay with the Redskins or find something else to do for a living. With the contract coming in at $570,000, the minimum for a player with two years in league, Robinson made the wise choice and signed with the Redskins.
In order to collect on that contract Robinson has to make the team and that is not a given. Any player who was drafted by the previous regime and has just 29 receptions in 31 games played will have to fight off challengers to get a roster spot.
It’s a no-risk proposition for Jay Gruden and the Redskins. There is no guaranteed money in the deal and if they decide he isn’t what they are looking for they can release him.
He will get a look for a roster spot for the same reason he was drafted, his speed. He ran a 4.35 in the 40 at the combine and the Redskins took him based on the old adage that they could teach him how to improve his route running and ball catching but they can’t teach him how to run that 4.35.
In three years with the Redskins (he spent all but one game of his rookie season on the practice squad) his progress in moving from “wow, he’s fast” to “hey, he’s a quality NFL receiver” has been spotty.
For most of the 2012 and 2013 seasons Robinson didn’t get much of an opportunity to play. In 2012 he played 96 snaps the first two games and after that he got more than 15 snaps in a game just once. It looked like he was going to take off after catching touchdown bombs of 49 yards against the Eagles and 68 yards in Dallas to help start a season-ending seven-game winning streak. But Robinson played a total of 21 snaps in the last five games and was not targeted once.
He continued to play sparingly in 2013 until Leonard Hankerson suffered a knee injury in Week 11 in Philadelphia. He started to take advantage of his opportunity. He caught 11 passes for 213 yards (19.4 yards per catch) in the last four games of the season. One encouraging aspect of his performance was that eight of those receptions were good for between 10 and 20 yards. That means that he was making catches on intermediate routes and getting some yards after the catch (44 per Pro Football Focus) and he wasn’t just going deep.
Can Robinson duplicate what he did in the latter part of 2013 for the entire 2014 season? We will find out. If he makes the team—and challengers for his roster spot could be brought in via free agency and the draft—he will benefit from Jay Gruden’s tendency to rotate his receivers. Robinson should get his chance and we’ll see if he can convert from fast guy to fast NFL receiver.