The Redskins had two No. 1 picks this spring. One, of course, is quarterback Robert Griffin III, who they took with their top pick in the draft, the second overall.Their other first choice, judging by how quickly they contacted and signed him, was free agent wide receiver Pierre Garon. Even though the Redskins had just found out that they were getting slapped with a 18 million salary cap penalty they still made the former Colts receiver an offer he couldnt refuse and the deal was done within an hour of the start of free agency on March 13. They showed how much they wanted him by giving him a five-year, 42.5 million contract.Thats a lot of money for any receiver, especially considering Garon does not have a 1000-yard receiving season on his resume and he never has caught more than 70 passes on a season.He spent his four years in Indianapolis either playing behind or playing second fiddle to the likes of Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison so his lack of a big season is understandable. But big free agent contracts are usually given out based on proven production, not on potential. The Redskins rolled the dice with Garon.He said that he did not feel that his contract put him under any added pressure. You know, anytime you play in the league, theres pressure. If youre a sixth- round pick or if youre a first day free agent, you know its pressure no matter what, he said. Everybody has their own pressure. Free agents just have to go out there and make plays, do this and give it your all every time you play and thats all you can do. Mike Shanahan believes that Garon and Josh Morgan, another receiver with so-so career stats who signed a contract worth 12 million over the next two years, have something to prove. When you do bring a player in or two players in that have played and played well, its a welcome addition to your football team because they are better players that are proving themselves or youre hoping they are better players that are proving themselves.The Redskins will be looking for big plays out of Garon. If he can pull off plays like his 87-yard touchdown catch and run against the Bucs last year just a few times in 2012 he will go a long way towards earning his contract.Last year the Redskins lacked a player who could score from anywhere on the field. In fact, that has been a glaring hole for them for many years. They have not been able to score from outside of the red zone and when they get close to the goal line they struggle to punch it in. That combination has made the Redskins offense among the lowest scoring in the league year in and year out.Shanahan and the organization recognized that need by making priorities of bringing in Griffin, who was one of the most accurate deep passers in college football a year ago, and Garon. As with many plans and strategies executed by the Redskins in years past, it looks good on paper but well have to wait and see how it plays out on the field.Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.
The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.
That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: It's tag day
Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?
Finlay: Nick Novak. Graham Gano. Shaun Suisham. That's just a recent list of kickers the Redskins gave up on too early.
Dustin Hopkins missed a couple of important kicks in 2016, especially after a very strong start to the year, but with a powerful leg and a sharp mindset he should absolutely be the 'Skins kicker in 2017. In two seasons with Washington, Hopkins has made 84 percent of his field goals and 95 percent of his extra points. Don't forget he routinely puts kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks too.
Yes, Hopkins missed a game winner against the Bengals and other important kicks later in the year. That happened. Missed kicks are a part of life in the NFL. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the Super Bowl.
At 6-foot-2 and just 26 years old, Hopkins is young and athletic. Of 70 career field goal attempts, Hopkins has missed 11 times. Of the misses, six of them came from 50+ yards. In 31 games, Jay Gruden has proven he trusts Hopkins to attempt long kicks. The 'Skins would be well served to stick with the young kicker.
Finding a quarterback may be the most difficult, least scientific task that NFL organizations must undertake. Deciding when to let go of a struggling kicker is second.
There are plenty of strong legs out there spending hours every day kicking on high school fields in hopes of getting an NFL tryout. But being successful as a kicker is as much about what is above the shoulders as it is what’s below the waist. It appears Hopkins had a mental slump last year but he came back to finish strong.
Hopkins started the year making 14 of his first 15 field goal attempts, with the miss coming in the wind in Baltimore. But then in the dome in Detroit he just missed a 45-yard try and that set off a slump where he missed five of 15 field goal tries. He pulled it back together and missed just two of his final nine kicks, one of them a “why not” 57-yard try at the end of the first half against the Giants.
So, it was more of a slump than a bad year for Hopkins. He continued to pound the ball into the end zone, finishing tied for fourth in touchback percentage. I would understand if they brought in some competition for him during training camp but it will be a major upset if he is not the Week 1 kicker.
More offseason questions:
Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!
Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 19, 18 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.
—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 10
—NFL Combine (3/2) 11
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 57
—NFL Draft (4/27) 67
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 203
Sunday morning quick hitters
How many spots up for grabs? A quick mid-February look down the final 2016 53-man roster shows about 20 players who may not be on the roster for Week 1 this year. This includes players who may depart as free agents and others who just won’t make the team. They probably won’t turn over that many spots but it does show that a lot of jobs are up for grabs.
RELATED: #RedskinsTalk Podcast - It's tag day
How many draft picks? The Redskins have nine draft picks, their own in rounds 1-6 and extra picks in rounds 4, 5, and 6. It’s easy to say that Scot McCloughan may turn that into as many as a dozen picks, especially with all the roster spots that may be open. But remember that last year the Redskins wound up with just seven picks with no pick in the fourth and two in the seventh. McCloughan may intend to stockpile more picks but it depends on how the draft unfolds.
1st-round RB a bad idea: Yesterday JP and I posted on the topic of Rob Kelley as the Redskins’ prime running back this season and it drew quite a bit of discussion on Twitter and on Facebook. I think that they should try to get an upgrade over Kelley but I don’t think they should use their first-round pick to do it. There are just too many other, higher priority needs.
More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0
A turnaround for Matt Jones? Last year Trent Murphy broke out after two mediocre seasons to register nine sacks. Can Jones do the something similar in this, his third season? The rough equivalent of Murphy’s performance would be Jones rushing for 800 yards. It’s as much a matter of him holding on to the ball as anything. Jones was on pace to rush for over 1,100 yards before losing his grip on the starting job, literally and figuratively.
Tandler on Twitter
In case you missed it
- Would a Cousins contract be a cap killer for the Redskins?
- Will Kelley remain the Redskins' lead running back?
- The Redskins week that was—How many DL, players to step up
- 2017 NFL Mock Draft 3.0