I'm going to write a series of Redskins personnel moves I'd make when the lockout is over. I'll go into the rhyme and reason why, and try to give both sides of the equation. First up, Trade Fred Davis.
Argument To Keep Him:
Davis has proven himself to be a weapon when given the opportunity. He caught the 5th most receptions on the team last year, and was 2nd on the team in yards per catch (among guys who caught a least 10 passes). Shockingly Davis also had the longest play from scrimmage in a 71 yard catch. Davis has also improved both his pass and rush blocking since his time in Washington, and still hasn't reached his full potential. As it stands now Davis could probably start for at least 10 teams in this league.
Another reason that makes sense to keep Davis around is the fact that teams are starting to utilize two tight end sets more and more. While there are a number of teams that have success with two tight ends the most notable is the the New England Patriots, who used two rookie tight ends to supplement the lack of a true number 1 receiver.
Argument To Deal Him:
Everything I said about Davis above is 100% true. He is a valuable offensive component that when used effectively can increase the potency of an offense. The problem is that Davis isn't used effectively and that he is in the final year of his contract.
Davis was involved in 396 offensive plays last season, or 37% of all of our offensive plays. While that seems like a fair number, remember Mike Sellers was involved in 372 and Joey Galloway (who wasn't even on the team for the final 6 weeks) was on the field for 356. If you look deeper you'll see that 50% of the plays Davis was on the field for he was utilized as a run blocker. Now Sellers had a slightly higher % but still in that range, while Galloway wasn't even close. Now of course that makes sense, as TE's and FB's are used for blocking, whereas receivers primary role is to catch passes. But this is what I'm talking about in terms of utilization. The Patriots knowing their receiver talent was less than ideal would use their TE's as receivers.
It's completely fine to bring Davis in as an extra blocker when you are trying to run the ball, but really should the Redskins 3rd and 4th receivers (and FB's) get so many snaps in the passing game? Davis was a far better pass catcher than any Skins receiver not named Moss or Armstrong, so why wasn't he a great focus of the offense? Now the argument could be made to begin to utilize Davis more like the Patriots do, but I just don't see that happening. Whether you look towards either Mike or Kyle Shanahan's offensive philosophy it is evident that they want to run from a two back set, highly utilizing the Fullback position (now we could upgrade there). On top of their track record we just drafted 3 wide receivers and assuming we resign Santana Moss, will likely have the receiver talent for an effective passing game.
As of now Davis' lack of use (in times when Cooley is healthy) hasn't been a problem because he has been so cheap. Davis has still been on his rookie deal and even for a 2nd rounder he has been quite affordable. All of that will change next season when Davis is set to reach unrestricted free agency. While it is true that at this time it is unknown if his four years of service time will be enough for UFA, since last year's standard is 6 years, and this season's free agency could be the same. It is highly likely that the players won't agree to a new CBA unless they get free agency back to the current standard of 4 years to unrestricted free agency. This means the Redskins need to make a decision about how much Davis is worth.
It's hard to say exactly how much Davis would get on the open market, but I think the Redskins would at least have to offer a deal similar to the 6 year $30 million deal they gave Chris Cooley. Some people might balk at that suggestion, but that deal was signed 4 years ago. More recently Owen Daniels signed for 4 years $22 million, but he was coming off two injury plagued years and is 4 years older than Davis. Even more average tight ends like Ben Watson and Jeremy Shockey have signed for about $4 million a year, which makes me believe that Davis can give $5 million without breaking a sweat.
I think that is far too much to pay a pair of tight ends, especially when one is used so infrequently. And the other option of trading Chris Cooley doesn't seem too feasible. Considering the Skins aren't likely to contend next season, the best move for them is to deal Davis now when they can get something valuable for him (a move they failed to make with McIntosh and Rogers this pas season).
Even though we've already had a number of teams solve their tight end woes through the NFL Draft, there still should be a nice market for Fred Davis. I think you will see more and more teams try the two tight end approach after the success the Patriots showed with it last year. The Giants and Raiders both have their top tight end an unrestricted free agent this season and could be in the market for a replacement (though the Raiders already have dealt their 2nd and 4th rounders). The Bills desperately need a starter, though they wouldn't fit the likely criteria of being a contender. Teams like the Jets, Steelers, Bengals, Chargers, Eagles, Falcons, Saints, could all be in the market for an upgrade at their 2nd tight end position if they are looking to emulate the Patriots.
Now it is hard to say exactly what trade value Davis has, but for a team looking to make a serious Super Bowl run, his upside and price tage ($550K) should look pretty good. The single year left on the deal will give teams pause, but I could see a contender parting with a 3rd round pick next April. If the Redskins can get a 3rd back for Davis (or that value, i.e. a 4th and a 6th), I think they should have no qualms dealing him.
Washington is in the midst of a rebuild and stockpiling as many draft picks as possible well help quicken their road to recovery. As for Davis's spot on the roster the Redskins could look to promote a Logan Paulsen, who showed a lot of tenacity as a blocker last season. They could also look to bring in a blocking specialist at TE, who might not do much in the passing game, but will be essentially a 6th offensive lineman when asked to block.
What do you guys think? Should they move Davis and what should the asking price be?
Steve Shoup has been a Redskins fan his entire life and dreams of the day they get back to the glory days of his youth. In addition to his regular piece on Hogs Haven, you can find his daily writings at Fanspeak.com.