The Redskins were fortunate enough to have Davis under the franchise tag last season, but only saw seven games out of the 27-year-old tight end before he tore his Achilles tendon.
Since the end of the season, the argument has been back and forth for Davis and his future in Washington.
On the one hand, Davis is an explosive tight end in the prime of his career that can add another dimension to the Redskins offense. His production through seven games last season put him on pace for a career year, and he was developing a solid relationship with Robert Griffin III before the injury cut him short.
On the other, Davis lacks maturity off the field, and it’s not easy to ignore an injury as serious as an Achilles tear. In the case of re-signing him, the Redskins would be laying a bet on Davis’ recovery and playing future.
It appeared the only other team interested in Davis’ services were the Cleveland Browns, according to NFL insider Jason La Canfora. But the Browns have since signed two tight ends this offseason in Gary Barnidge and Kellen Davis to join Jordan Cameron at the position.
The Browns’ interest now appears kaput.
On Sunday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported a new team in the Davis race.
Redskins TE Fred Davis dined last night in Washington with Bills HC Doug Marrone, GM Buddy Nix, Doug Whaley and other Bills officials.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 24, 2013
And later added one more.
Redskins free-agent TE Fred Davis is scheduled to visit Bills on Wednesday. Jets and Redskins also interested.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 24, 2013
It’s hard to say the Bills’ interest isn’t legitimate—they have a need at the position and very rarely does a team include such top brass in a road trip to discuss business with a free agent. But let’s not forget Davis’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and his mindful antics that can increase his client’s attractiveness.
Still up against a tough decision, Redskins fans should hold out hope that general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan hold strong on the value they’ve placed on Davis moving forward.
Although the $18 million cap penalty helps their thriftiness, the Redskins seem stiff about offering up a lot of money for a guy with a hazy football future. Will Davis regain his explosiveness? Can he be trusted off the field?
It’s not that Davis isn’t good. There’s no denying his talent. But the Redskins were able to win a division title and get to the playoffs essentially without him.
Redskins fans are fond of Davis’ play two years ago when he hauled in 59 catches for 796 yards and three touchdowns in the 12 games before his suspension. And that was his production with Rex Grossman at quarterback. Naturally, Davis’ potential with Robert Griffin III leading the offense is intriguing, and the teammates’ developed relationship through the first seven games last season looked promising.
Unfortunately, the Redskins don’t have the cap space to assume a risk like Davis.
Although Spotrac lists the Redskins cap space at just over $7 million, that number doesn't account for some of the team's latest signings and restructures. According to Redskins insider Rich Tandler, the Redskins only have about $1 million in space and they still have to sign incoming draft choices.
Davis has noted his desire to stay in Washington, whether interpreted as fact or bargaining.
“I definitely would [like to stay], but at the end of the day, I’ll play wherever,” Davis said in an interview with NFL Network on Friday morning. “It doesn’t matter to me. It’s about football to me. I would like to stay here, but if I can’t, I’m fine with that as well.”
The Redskins would be fine, too.
Shanahan and the Redskins front office hold control in this business relationship. If Davis isn’t willing to accept a team-friendly, incentive-laden deal, the team should move on. There’s proof of offensive prowess without Davis on the field.
And who’s to say another Fred Davis won’t come along? Perhaps even better?
You don’t want to get too excited about incoming rookies and their prospectus in the NFL, but this year’s class has potential—and the Redskins have seven draft picks.
Finally, forgotten amongst all of this, is Redskins current tight end Logan Paulsen.
He may not be the athlete that Davis is nor pack the explosiveness of today’s dominant tight ends, but Paulsen is a valuable asset at the position. Valuable enough that the Redskins chose to retain the restricted free agent by signing him to a three-year deal earlier this month.
That said, Paulsen doesn’t supplant Davis’ ability as a receiving threat. He does, however, contribute in the run game with solid blocking, and he was a reliable chain-mover last season with 308 yards on 25 receptions and a touchdown.
If the Redskins can add speed on offense, or address the tight end position via the draft, combining his/their talents with Paulsen’s skill set can make up for what’s lost with a possible Davis departure.
It’s not that having Davis back wouldn’t be good for Griffin and the offense. But given the team’s needs and their limited cap space, the Redskins have to be picky about what they spend on. They need to stay true to the price they’ve seemingly set on Davis and be willing to move on with or without him.
If Davis and his agent think it’s best he heads north to suit-up for a Bills or Jets team with no quarterback, then so be it. The Redskins will be fine. Just like they were fine last year when they ripped off seven straight wins to end the season, take the division and make the playoffs—all without him.
In the end, it’s hard for the Redskins to miss what they never had.