- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The chance to play with Robert Griffin III wasn’t what attracted Pierre Garcon to the Washington Redskins during the first hour of free agency Tuesday. If he was set on teaming with a top quarterback prospect, he could have just re-signed with the Indianapolis Colts, who are positioned ahead of Washington to draft Griffin or Andrew Luck.

No, the Redskins won Garcon over with something else.

“They expressed a lot of interest in me,” Garcon said in an interview Wednesday. “They were the first to reach out to me. They wanted a receiver. They wanted me to help them try to win more games, and that’s what I want to be a part of.”

Washington’s interest materialized in the form of a five-year, $42.5 million contract that includes $20.5 million guaranteed. And dollars usually are what fuels movement during the free agency period.

Now the Redskins have a new starting split end to go with whichever quarterback they draft second overall. And while that wasn’t the main selling point for Garcon, it brightens his outlook in joining a team coming off four consecutive last-place finishes.

“Having a new quarterback and growing together is a good thing,” Garcon said. “We’ll be his first receivers in the NFL. He doesn’t know you. We’ll get to grow together and teach each other things and have success together.”

Garcon will be tempted, however, to compare the rookie to the quarterback with whom he broke into the league in Indianapolis.

“Having a quarterback like Peyton Manning, that kind of makes everybody else look that much worse because he’s such a great quarterback,” Garcon said with a laugh. “He knows everything and does everything well.”

Garcon in 2011 showed he can be a threat without Manning at quarterback. In fact, the Colts‘ quarterback situation last season was the opposite of what the future Hall-of-Famer brought to the team for 13 seasons, as Garcon was catching passes from Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins.

In his fourth NFL season, Garcon, 25, still posted career highs of 70 catches and 947 yards. He also dropped fewer passes than in past years and, as a result, separated himself from that element of his reputation.

“I improved in all areas — catching the ball, running good routes, reading defenses, yards after the catch, working on quickness,” he said. “At the end of the day, the whole thing has to be good, not just one part of your game.”

Garcon and fellow free-agent receiver Josh Morgan signed their Redskins contracts Wednesday. They met with the coaching staff and discussed what all parties hope will be a bright future.

Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan impressed Garcon with their passion for the sport.

“Those guys are straight shooters,” he said. “They tell you what they want and what we’re going to do. They’re football guys. They come from it, they’ve grown in it, and it’s in their blood.

“I want to help them get to the promised land and beat the odds. They were really interested in me, and they have the same plans I do — winning.”