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The 5 O’Clock Club: Playing GM - another look at free agent wide receivers

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

We all know that teams will announce most of the re-signings of their 2017 players in the week between the end of the Combine and the start of the new year, so I want to finish up the “a look at free agents” series before the list of available players starts changing hourly. The Redskins have already announced the re-signing of two of their players, and this week saw a high profile player tagged -- Jarvis Landry of the Dolphins. My plan is to publish a look at free agents daily from today through Saturday the 3rd in an attempt to highlight as many free agents as possible ahead of the new league year, which starts at 4 p.m. on 14 March.

We’ve had mock drafts coming out lately that have projected the Washington Redskins to choose a wide receiver at #13 when their first turn at the podium comes in Indianapolis. I assume that any national journalist who projects the ‘Skins to take a wide receiver in the first round simply hasn’t been paying attention for the past 35 years.

The Redskins probably don’t have enough at the WR position (even if they re-sign Ryan Grant) to simply stand pat. They probably need at least one ‘impact’ player at the position.

Given the Redskins morbid track record at drafting receivers with the ability to come in and make an immediate contribution, the team is likely to have to dip its toe, once again, into the free agent wide receiver market.

We’ll be looking at three new free agent wide receivers today, but before we do, I want to turn the clock back just a few weeks and revisit a player we’ve already highlighted.

Sammy Watkins

New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

We already took a close look at Sammy Watkins in late January, and the readers were fairly well-disposed toward signing him as a Redskin, though the acceptance was by no means universal.

Reader Comments about Sammy Watkins

Some of the comments from that post:

Chris in Manassas

I’ve written a number of articles on free agency since January 10th when I started with a look at tight ends, inspired by a fan post from Chris in Manassas. Along the way, I asked Chris to send me more thoughts on more players that I could use in the 5 o’clock club, and he unselfishly wrote a bunch of them for me.

Chris has followed the theme of “affordable and realistic” in his free agent recommendations, so his suggestions don’t read like the top-30 free agent target lists that are so popular with journalists in January, February and early-March each year. Instead, Chris has one eye on the salary cap, and one eye on the existing players on the Redskin roster, looking for a good fit that improves the team without breaking the bank. In Chris’ own words:

I am looking at some potential free agents that fit where we stand in terms of spending combined with areas of need.

Chris made it clear that his #1 free agent wide receiver target is Sammy Watkins — a choice that I strongly agree with.

When I asked him to give me his “B” list candidates — the guys he would consider if he couldn’t get Watkins — Chris’ ideas and mine went in different directions. Chris stuck to his theme of “affordable and realistic” targets, but for the first time, I really had my head in a different place to Chris.

I’m going to confess right here that I don’t love Chris’ wide receiver “B” list. He sent it to me way back on the 24th of January, and it’s been languishing on my “to do” list for nearly a month because... well... I guess I’m just not inspired by his choices here.

In fact, if I had to make a list of three free agent wide receivers that I don’t want to sign, this would serve as well as any, but gosh darn it, I asked Chris to send me his thoughts and he delivered. It’s only right that his thoughts make it to the front page.

So, with the caveat that I’ll probably follow this up with a list I like better later in the week, here’s the Chris in Manassas B-list (he recommended Sammy Watkins as his “A” List pick) of realistic and affordable free agent wide receivers that the Redskins could sign this off-season, and each one is followed by my reason why I don’t want to sign him.

Think of it as “point, counter-point”.

Dez Bryant - Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

What Chris in Manassas had to say:

So this is a bit of a shot in the dark, but the noise coming out of Dallas is the Cowboys seem done with Bryant. For the last two seasons, Dez hasn’t been able to connect with Dak Prescott - who instead seems locked in to Cole Beasley, Jason Witten and Terrence Williams. In addition, Bill Callahan’s influence can be seen on Dez, who’s best seasons came with Callahan an influential voice on offense. This feels like a classic Danny/Bruce move if Dez becomes available. He would be motivated to go to a rival and, frankly, even at this stage Dez is a massive and talented receiver who if motivated and used correctly could be a huge upgrade. With a huge risk of course.

Bill-in-Bangkok:

Wide receivers I hate the most in the history of the NFL:

  1. Odell Beckham Jr.
  2. Michael Irvin
  3. Dez Bryant

If the Redskins signed Dez Bryant to a contract it might just be enough for me to become a Cleveland Browns fan.

Michael Crabtree - Raiders

Dallas Cowboys v Oakland Raiders Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

What Chris in Manassas had to say:

It is looking likely that Crabtree will be released by the Raiders and he could be someone that would be a perfect fit in Washington. Crabtree reminds me a lot of Pierre Garcon and their numbers are quite similar. He is a clutch player who has made big catches in his career and a reliable pass catcher on third down. Even though he had a down season in Oakland this season, he scored 8 touchdowns which matches his total from his Pro Bowl season from two years ago. He’s very good veteran receiver with a nose for the end zone and can become that reliable blanket we lost when Garcon went to San Francisco.

Bill-in-Bangkok:

I agree with Chris that Crabtree is very similar to Pierre Garcon. In fact, I think the two of them are probably twin brothers who were separated at birth. I checked Spotrac, and they compare Crabtree to a few players who score 90% similarity or higher. Two of those comparisons are:

  • Alshon Jeffrey 96.25% similarity
  • Dez Bryant 91.42% similarity

Aside from my aforementioned intense dislike of Dez Bryant, here’s what those three compatives have in common that makes me uncomfortable.

Pierre Garcon Age: 31 APY: $9.5m

Alshon Jeffrey Age: 28 APY: $13m

Dez Bryant Age: 29 APY: $14m

The two guys that Spotrac want to compare Crabtree to make $13m & $14m per season. The guy that Chris & I want to compare him to is 31 years old and getting $9.5m per season.

Crabtree is 30, and he caught 58 passes for 618 yards last season (albeit he had 8 TDs).

I just don’t wanna pay $10m+ APY to a possession receiver who is on the back-nine of his career. I like Crabtree as a player, but not enough to bid against other teams for the right to give him a contract worth 8-figures per year.

Eric Decker - Titans

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

What Chris in Manassas had to say:

He might be past his prime, but Decker could be a depth signing. He’s been hurt the last few seasons so that has affected his output, as well as the circumstances of being with the Jets two years ago when they plummeted and a Titans team that made the playoffs but struggled mightily on offense. Decker’s value when he’s healthy is in the red zone and that is something we desperately need. The Redskins red zone TD offense was woeful this season and when Jordan Reed isn’t there we struggle to get in the end zone. Decker, when at the top of his game, is a great red zone threat.

Bill-in-Bangkok:

757 yards and 3 touchdowns — in the past two seasons ... combined.

Poll

How would you feel if the Redskins signed Dez Bryant to a contract in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    I’d want to kill myself or Bruce Allen; maybe both.
    (225 votes)
  • 18%
    I think it’d be a great decision!
    (90 votes)
  • 35%
    meh...
    (172 votes)
487 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which player fits the best with the 2018 Redskins, given what you know about the team today?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Dez
    (51 votes)
  • 26%
    Crabtree
    (145 votes)
  • 7%
    Decker
    (40 votes)
  • 22%
    With Alex Smith at QB, it really doesn’t matter who lines up at wide receiver. We should be talking about tight ends and running backs...
    (124 votes)
  • 33%
    None of the above
    (185 votes)
545 votes total Vote Now