If you tuned in to the Redskins-Packers game this past Sunday night, you probably learned enough about the wind from Cris Collinsworth and Mike Tirico to now know how to navigate a 17th century wooden vessel across the Atlantic. Somewhere between the incessant talk of gusts and gales, though, Kirk Cousins guided the Redskins to a decisive victory over the Green Bay Packers and all but guaranteed a massive payday this offseason. Regardless of whether the money comes in the form of a long-term deal or a second year under the franchise tag, that position was only more solidified after a second consecutive stellar performance (41-53, 449, 3 TDs) on national television against the Cowboys.
What remains uncertain, though, is who Cousins will be throwing to if he returns to the burgundy and gold next season. Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder are the obvious mainstays. Reed demands the attention of the defense (even when playing with a separated shoulder) and Crowder is becoming a matchup nightmare for opponents, finding the end zone in three consecutive games prior to Thanksgiving and in four of the last six total. Beyond that, much needs to be sorted.
After an injury-plagued first year, Josh Doctson will essentially be entering his rookie season in 2017, with development and gaining trust being emphasized. Coaches and fans alike are high on Maurice Harris, and for good reason. He’s shown signs of being an instinctive, technically-sound player with good size (6’3”), but he remains an unknown commodity whose future value should at least be marginally more clear after the next five weeks.
Vernon Davis has provided an incredible boost to the offense, both as a pass catcher and in the run game, and given the Redskins much more than anyone envisioned when he signed (currently on pace for 45 receptions, 655 yards). He's experienced a career rejuvenation in D.C. and proved he can carry the load if Reed's injury history surfaces yet again. With Reed healthy, though, the two-TE set has provided Cousins with some of his best numbers (73.8% completion, 10.6 average per attempt, 118.2 rating). At this point, it's far too mutually beneficial for Davis not to re-sign.
With both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson set to hit the open market, big decisions for GM Scot McCloughan are on the horizon. Despite finding the end zone in the previous two games, the writing may be on the wall for Jackson and the Redskins to part ways. The offense has shown it's capable of producing without him, and did so against one of the NFL's best defenses in Minnesota. Jackson's durability is also a known-concern, and paying $10 or $11 million is too much for a fragile, aging speedster.
Because losing Jackson and Garcon would turn a position seen as having great depth in 2016 into a weaker one next season, re-signing Garcon should be a priority. Garcon has been the Redskins' most consistent player not at the forefront of anyone's discussion. The veteran wideout is on pace for a remarkably quiet 76-catch, 925-yard season, and his 76 targets are second on an offense that prides itself on spreading the ball around. (Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and DeSean Jackson have been targeted 80, 75, and 70 times, respectively.)
Through 11 games, Pro Football Focus (PFF) has graded Garcon the highest (80.0) of the Redskins receivers (Crowder: 78.0, Jackson: 71.5). The staff loves his toughness, he's comfortable going over the middle, enjoys run blocking (graded at 75.8), and 34 of his receptions have gone for first downs.
The potential inexperience at WR in 2017 makes keeping a reliable veteran presence critical. Reliable is all Garcon has been during his Redskins tenure. After missing six games due to injury during the first half of the 2012 season, he's played in 68 consecutive games (including two postseason) and has been held to less than three catches only eight times during that span, five of which came during 2014, the forgettable 4-12 shipwreck guided by coma-inducing QB play.
If Scot McCloughan addresses defense in the draft, which is an absolute necessity given the NFL Europe-like talent level of most of the front seven and both safety positions, the Redskins will have to solidify depth at WR by retaining Garcon or looking to free agency.
Alshon Jeffery will cost too much, and he's missed 20 games in his 5-year career on top of his recent four-game suspension for PEDs. Vincent Jackson, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith, Sr. are soon-to-be members of the AARP and collecting social security.
Kendall Wright and Kenny Britt could be intriguing alternatives. Wright turned 27 on November 12 and has 25 catches (15 yards per catch) in Tennessee's run-heavy offense, 15 of which have gone for first downs. Los Angeles' 28-year-old Kenny Britt is having a breakout season (49 receptions, 736 yards, 3 TDs on 71 targets), despite playing with Case Keenum (now Jared Goff) and perpetually inept coach and master of inexplicable job security, Jeff Fisher. He has good size (6'3, 223), and is currently graded as the NFL's 17th best WR (81.1), to go along with a 74.6 run blocking grade. Britt has racked up an impressive 221 yards after the catch, and 34 of his catches have gone for first downs. Imagine the red zone nightmare for defenses facing an offense with the size of Doctson, Britt and Reed, and the quickness of Crowder in the slot.
While the route McCloughan decides to take to address the future of the WR position remains unclear, one thing is certain: This offense is firing on all cylinders. With the right personnel, there isn't any reason that shouldn't continue into next season.