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HARRIS: The puzzling disappearance of Fred Davis
Fred, we hardly knew you.
The end of an era is happening right before our eyes, except it is not so crystal clear because this era never actually happened.
Fred Davis, a tight end, for so long carried the teaser as the next big thing for the Redskins. He was destined to be a star and he may well still become one.
It just won't be here.
If you can't read PHASE-OUT on the wall in gigantic letters, go visit your eye doctor.
Davis has seen it. He knew it was there ever before he was inactive for Sunday's victory over the Bears. In a brief conversation last week, Davis made it clear that he was coming to grips with the impending end of his life as a Redskin.
"At the end of the day I still want my team to win, so I have to make a play whenever I get the chance," Davis said. "At the end of the day, you're still putting film on for yourself and for other teams to see, too.
"If you're not being used, as a player, you just have to know this is the way the business is. You never know what's going to happen. I'm just going to put on the best film I can whenever I get the opportunity. That's how I stay motivated."
Davis had plenty of reasons to be motivated coming into the season. This looked like it could be the year, finally, when he played from start to finish and flashed more than just signs of greatness.
His career-high in catches is 59, set in only 12 games in 2011. He didn't get a chance to extend that personal record because he was suspended for the final four games for a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Davis had 24 catches in seven games last season before an Achilles injury ended the year for him.
This year, armed with a one-year contract, Davis had plenty of reasons to make good. A huge deal could be waiting on the other side. He's only 27. Age isn't an issue.
"I feel good. I definitely feel like I can play," Davis said. "The whole preseason, I was out there playing, early in the season when I got opportunities. The NFL, that's just how it goes."
The participation chart is telling. Davis played 48 snaps in the season opener. He's played just 39 snaps total in the ensuing games. He was inactive one week with an ankle injury, something he says isn't an issue now. After two more games with barely more than cameo appearances, he was inactive against the Bears.
His season haul? Three catches, 25 yards.
"You're never all right with that," Davis said in the conversation last week. "You want to be out there playing. Definitely for me, coming off an injury, I want to be out there playing. Some things are out of your control. They have different options."
Ah, yes, the options. One of them might provide the best explanation for the obvious phase-out of Davis.
Jordan Reed, taken out of Florida in the third round of the 2013 draft, is emerging as the next Fred Davis. He has 26 catches for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Only Pierre Garcon, with 40, has more catches. The other tight ends — Logan Paulsen, Davis and Niles Paul — have a total of 13.
In a sport where the financial jigsaw puzzle has to work just as well as the personnel puzzle, Reed is proving to be a very reliable option who will be cheaper in the short term than Davis. The salary cap hit on Davis' one-year deal is $2.5 million, the website overthecap.com reports. Reed's hit is $542,278.
A big year out of Davis would cost the Skins a lot more than $2.5 million. Reed is much cheaper and, it seems thus far, every bit as capable.
Davis likely hasn't played his final game as a Redskin, though there are numerous reports the Redskins are looking to trade him. Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan each used the "week-to-week" line to explain their thinking with their quartet of tight ends. So if he isn't traded, Davis should get a chance to play again this season.
Next season? It seems extremely unlikely Davis will be a Redskin. It's not the end he envisioned, and he isn't alone there.
Two of the five prognosticators in The Times' Redskins preview section projected Davis as the team's receptions leader. Davis, certainly, saw himself playing a bigger role.
"I thought I would. I could. It's early. You never know," Davis said, before again admitting to the reality of his situation.
"As far as right now, I don't see anything changing role-wise. I just have to take what I can. Work hard, try to be a pro, do what I have to do."
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About the Author
Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris has more than 30 years experience in the business as a reporter, columnist and manager. He’s covered a wide variety of events including two Olympics, horse racing, auto racing, professional and college sports. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow the section on Twitter @WashTimesSports.
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