This is the second and final part of a series on the Washington Redskins' top offseason needs.
Here's a link to part one, where we outlined needs five through three.
Now, on to the top two needs this offseason for the Redskins
2. Big play wide receiver
One of Mike Shanahan's go-to themes toward the end of the 2011 season was his insistence that only once did a Redskins receiver catch a touchdown pass before crossing the goal line, citing Roy Helu's 47-yard dash to the end zone in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was nearly correct; there were just three more instances last season when a Washington receiver caught a touchdown reception prior to crossing the plane of the goal line.
Despite the minor discrepancy, Shanahan's point is clear: The Redskins do not have many offensive playmakers on their roster. Specifically, they're in need of players who are adept after the catch. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme can only do so much to get a player open, and part of being an explosive offense is having receivers who can make defenders miss in the open field and take it the distance.
Taking that a step further, according to Stats LLC, the top five teams in yards after the catch (YAC) in 2011 each made the playoffs. That list included the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants, who relied primarily on receivers Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks - all of whom excelled at making plays after the catch.
Translation: Explosive plays win games, and the Redskins have been lacking in this area under Shanahan. For this offense to take the next step, this is a must get this offseason.
Free agent options: Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City Chiefs), Vincent Jackson (San Diego Chargers), Marques Colston (New Orleans Saints), Pierre Garçon (Indianapolis Colts)
Draft options: Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State), Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Kendall Wright (Baylor)
And the top offseason need for the Redskins is.......(drumroll please.....)
1. Franchise quarterback
This isn't much of a surprise: It's quarterback and it's not even close.
Shanahan has been tight lipped so far this offseason, but when asked about his team's top need at the Senior Bowl, he gave one quote that seemed to sum everything up quite nicely:
"I think everybody wants a franchise quarterback," Shanahan said. "If you don't have a franchise quarterback and you say you're not looking for one, then you usually won't be working very long."
That quote, to me, sets the tone for this entire offseason for the Redskins. This is a team and a coaching staff that needs to show significant progress in 2012, and the easiest way to do that is to get improved play at the quarterback position.
But it's not enough for the Redskins to simply look for a guy who's a minor upgrade over Rex Grossman and John Beck. They have to do their best to find "the answer" at the quarterback; the guy who can help lead the franchise to heights they haven't reached in nearly a generation.
The problem is, those players don't grow on trees, and it's why the Redskins are in a tough spot this offseason.
By now, you've heard all the names the Redskins could go after. In free agency, we've heard Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton and Matt Flynn. In the draft, there's Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M, Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State, and the oh-so-appealing Robert Griffin III, the Heisman winning quarterback from Baylor.
The question now becomes, which signal caller is the best option?
Let's start with some of the free agent options.
Manning, the biggest name on the market if he becomes available, has been consistently linked to the Redskins in recent weeks. He's undoubtedly one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, but the fact of the matter is he'll likely be available for a reason - because of his health concerns. If you're Washington, do you give a sizable contract to a 36 year old quarterback whose nerves have yet to regenerate in his arm? The downside of such a decision is obvious. But on the flipside, if he recovers and returns to form, he makes the team better immediately. The question for the Redskins will be their confidence level in Peyton's ability to get back to a hundred percent, not to mention if Manning will even be interested in coming to Washington.
The other significant free agent option is Flynn, whose unknown potential is sure to intrigue teams around the league. He only has two NFL starts, but more than acquitted himself in each of those. That was most evident in Week 17 of last season, as he led the Green Bay Packers to a 45-41 victory over the Detroit Lions. Flynn, most known for being Aaron Rodgers' backup, put up video game-like numbers that day, posting 480 yards passing and six touchdowns and finishing the game with a 136.4 quarterback rating.
But is he the real deal? Or just a product of the system? That's the key question with Flynn, and it's hard to see Shanahan betting the rest of his tenure in Washington on a seventh round quarterback whom many had concerns about when he came out of LSU in the 2008 draft.
That leads us to this year's draft, where even before the Redskins could even begin to dive into the process, life became more difficult for them.
That's because the 2012 quarterback class -- long hailed as one of the deepest in years -- began to dilute the moment that projected first rounders Matt Barkley (USC) and Landry Jones (Oklahoma) both chose to go back to school, thus limiting the options for QB-hungry teams.
So that leaves Andrew Luck, Griffin and Tannehill as the only projected first round quarterbacks who will be available in April. With the football world expecting the Colts to draft Luck with the first overall pick, it's a safe bet to assume he's out of the running as the Redskins next quarterback.
The Redskins will be selecting sixth overall, giving plenty of options. Last April's draft saw them trade down to acquire more picks, amassing twelve in total. But this year, with the need at quarterback so dire, it's hard to see them passing on a quarterback with that first pick.
The home run move for the Redskins in this draft would be to package a slew of picks (and perhaps players) to convince the St. Louis Rams to surrender the second overall pick in an effort to get Griffin III. That appears to be the most popular option, and one the Redskins are reportedly considering. It's a move that makes plenty of sense. Griffin appears to have the makings of the franchise caliber passer Washington so badly covets.
So what's the downside? For one thing, the Redskins won't be alone in their pursuit of Griffin. Teams like the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, and Seattle Seahawks among others could enter into what would be a bidding war for the second overall pick. If that's the case, then the Redskins will have to offer up a hefty package to get their man.
But in the event that the Redskins do not win that bidding war, they'll have to have a backup plan, which is where Tannehill comes in. Without Luck or Griffin on the board, would the Redskins take Tannehill at six? Or would they be content with a repeat of last year's draft, moving down and hoping to pick up the former Texas A&M quarterback later while stockpiling more picks. If they choose to do the latter, Washington runs the risk of having another quarterback-needy team pick Tannehill before they do. But if they stand pat at six and take him, they'll also have to deal with criticism, as most don't view Tannehill worthy of such a high pick. But if he turns out to be that franchise quarterback, no one associated with the Redskins will or should care.
And that's the real theme for the Redskins this year: If they manage to find their franchise quarterback, whether it be through free agency or in the draft, it won't matter the price they paid to get him.
But with such limited options this offseason, it looks as though nothing short of a bold move will be required to end this franchise's twenty-year long problem at the game's most important position.