Each man arrived in Washington in 2008 with some baggage. Each has had his share of issues since. Their lockers at Redskins Park have been in reasonably close proximity during their six years as teammates. But the chasm between tight end Fred Davis and cornerback DeAngelo Hall has never been quite so large as it is now.
Hall re-signed a four-year, $17 million contract last Tuesday. The next day, Davis was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after testing positive for a banned substance. And the day after that, Davis – who doesn’t have a contract for 2014 — was arrested for driving under the influence.
That’s a huge contrast to last March when the Redskins cut Hall for salary cap reasons – only to re-sign him 24 days later to a bargain-basement one-year, $1.25 million deal. During the time that Hall was on the street, Washington re-signed Davis to a one-year, $2.5 million contract although he was coming off a torn Achilles and had been suspended for the final four games of 2011 after testing positive for marijuana.
However, three-time Pro Bowl pick Hall had perhaps his best year in Washington in 2013, leading the Redskins with four interceptions and three forced fumbles. He scored three touchdowns — more than all but four players on the offense produced — and ranked fourth in tackles.
Through Week 2 of last season, Davis had started the last 27 games for which he was available. But he was benched in the second half of the loss at Green Bay and never escaped coach Mike Shanahan’s doghouse. Rookie tight end Jordan Reed and former backup Logan Paulsen took over for Davis, who finished with just seven catches for 70 yards.
If the Redskins don’t re-sign 34-year-old former No. 1 receiver Santana Moss, safety Reed Doughty and backup outside linebacker Rob Jackson, only reserve defensive end Kedric Golston will have been in Washington longer than Hall, who was signed off waivers from Oakland on Nov. 8, 2008.
That’s an amazing accomplishment for a volatile player who earned a ticket out of Atlanta after clashing with new coach Bobby Petrino in 2007 and was booted by the Raiders less than seven months after signing a seven-year, $70 million contract with them. During his four years under Shanahan, Hall once had to be restrained from going after an official and went off a couple of times on how he was used by the coaches. But now, at 30, he’s a team-first, elder statesman in a locker room that has lost venerable captain London Fletcher to retirement and will likely also be without wise old head Moss.
“When I left [my first meeting with new coach Jay Gruden], it’s almost like I was on a college recruiting trip; I wanted to sign my letter of intent,” Hall told 106.7TheFan’s Grant and Danny last Tuesday. “I kind of had to let my agent and the front office work all the details out, but it’s definitely a deal that I feel good about. [They] showed me they wanted me to be a part of this team, and hopefully retire as a Redskin.”
Barring major moves in free agency, Hall will likely start opposite second-year cornerback David Amerson in 2014, but he sees himself eventually moving to safety, as several top corners have done as they have gotten older.
“It’s something I definitely have entertained,” said Hall, who ranks fifth among active players with 43 interceptions. “… I’m a ball hawk. The greed part of me would love to sit back there and play safety, but I know what this team needs me to be right now, and that’s one of the top corners in the league … to go out and try to stop other guys’ top guys. So I’m a corner for now; hopefully I can transition into that position at some point, but I’m just looking to get this team as good as possible. I’ll do whatever they want me to do.”
Davis, 28, would love to be able to say that, but he’s out of the NFL indefinitely. Barred from Southern Cal’s bowl game after violating a team rule as a freshman, Davis rebounded to become the nation’s top tight end as a senior. Drafted by Washington in the second round in 2008, Davis infamously overslept a rookie minicamp practice. His pot suspension, his dispute with a woman who claimed he threw a drink on her in a District nightclub – which prompted a lawsuit in which he served as his own attorney – and his perceived lackadaisical attitude earned him a reputation as a knucklehead at Redskins Park. His latest incidents cemented that and ended a once-promising career here.
“I would like to clarify the circumstances that resulted in my current suspension,” Davis said in a statement released by the NFLPA. “In the past, I made the mistake of knowingly ingesting a banned substance. For over two years, I’ve worked very hard to eliminate marijuana from my life and I have not had a positive test for it since 2011. Unfortunately, a couple of months ago I took a supplement that contained a banned substance. I now know that supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may contain banned substances.
“The NFL Policy is strict and not knowing that a supplement might contain a banned substance doesn’t excuse a violation of the policy,” continued Davis, who had 59 catches for 796 yards in just 12 games in 2011. “I’ve worked closely with the NFLPA and NFL to resolve this violation, and I will be permitted to apply for reinstatement in the fall. I look forward to staying in football shape, remaining in compliance with the NFL policy, and having a chance to get back on the field to contribute to a team’s success next season.”
For now, Davis just needs to get his life in order. Football comes second. Hall, who has six kids with his wife, Jada, whom he met when they were students at Virginia Tech, clearly has his life and career in order.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011.