Reporting David Elfin
Four years ago this August, I was sitting in the press box at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio chuckling over a Division III receiver with the unlikely name of Pierre Garcon (which means Peter Boy in French) trying to make the powerful Indianapolis Colts.
Yesterday less than an hour after the free agent market opened, Monsieur Garcon, 25, was the recipient of a five-year, $42.5 million contract from the ever-deep pockets of Dan Snyder, $20.5 million of which is guaranteed, including an $11 million signing bonus.
Bill Polian, who drafted Garcon in the sixth round in 2008 because of his blistering speed and decent size, termed the Redskins’ move “a great signing,” said he’s “a perfect fit” for the Shanahans’ offense. And to those who believe that Garcon was a Peyton creation, he set career-highs with 70 catches, 947 yards and six touchdowns last season when Manning was sidelined after neck surgeries.
Not content with adding just one playmaking receiver, Washington then grabbed Joshua Morgan from San Francisco for what in essence was $12 million over two years with $7.5 million guaranteed. Morgan, a 26-year-old product of H.D. Woodson High and Virginia Tech, missed the final 11 games of 2011 with a broken ankle, but he caught 96 passes for 1,225 yards and five touchdowns the previous two years.
And Washington seemed to be close to adding another Northern Virginian and ex-Hokies receiver, Eddie Royal, 25, who caught 91 passes for 980 yards and five touchdowns as a Denver rookie for Mike Shanahan in 2008, but managed just 115 catches, 1,127 yards and four touchdowns in the three seasons since the coach’s ouster by the Broncos.
Much of the reaction in the Twitterverse praised the Redskins for finally going young. How soon they forget.
Let’s rewind to six years ago this month when coach Joe Gibbs’ Redskins added two young receivers during the first couple of days of free agency, giving each a six-year, $31 million deal. Brandon Lloyd was just 24 but had grabbed 91 balls for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns the previous two seasons for the 49ers. Antwaan Randle El was 26 and had hauled in 78 passes for 1,159 yards and four scores for the Steelers in 2004 and 2005 combined.
Lloyd (who also cost the Redskins their third- and fourth-round draft picks in compensation to the 49ers for signing a restricted free agent) was arguably the biggest bust in Washington history, managing just 25 catches, 379 yards and never reaching the end zone in two years before Gibbs finally had enough of his bad attitude and poor work ethic.
During his four years in Washington, Randle El produced as he had in Pittsburgh (although not nearly as well on punt returns), averaging 47 catches, 550 yards and two touchdowns.
And remember the 2008 draft? Front office boss Vinny Cerrato traded away the Redskins’ first-round choice and used all three of their second-rounders on pass-catchers Devin Thomas, Fred Davis and Malcolm Kelly.
While Davis has produced in two of the last three seasons (but faces a year-long suspension if he tests positive for illegal substances again), Thomas managed just 40 catches, 435 yards and three touchdowns before being cut five weeks into his third season while Kelly delivered a Lloyd-like 38 catches, 355 yards and no touchdowns in two seasons before his ever-ailing legs prompted his release last summer after a year on injured reserve.
Garcon might be great. Morgan could make a difference. Reuniting Royal with the coach for whom he starred as a rookie should rejuvenate him.
Just don’t tell me that Shanahan has broken new ground at Redskin Park, except for finally building a practice bubble, that is.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March.