- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2017

Pierre Garcon was a pioneer of sorts the last time he became a free agent. Just more than an hour after the free agency period opened in 2012, Garcon announced on his Facebook page that he would be joining the Washington Redskins, making him an early adopter of self-news delivery.

Washington was trying to pile up receivers to go with its shiny new quarterback, Robert Griffin III. Garcon and Josh Morgan were signed the same day. Morgan did not last. Griffin is gone and has been replaced by Kirk Cousins. Garcon stuck around.

About two years later, Garcon was part of a dinner recruitment party for wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The Redskins used their social media tool this time, announcing Jackson’s signing in a tweet.

This offseason, Garcon and Jackson move back to free agency and present the Redskins with a conundrum: re-sign both? One? Or neither?

Garcon’s four years in Washington have ingrained him as a crucial part of the team. He played just 10 games in 2012, but has not missed a game since. In 2013, Garcon had his best season, catching 113 passes for 1,346 yards. His second-best season was last season, when Garcon again cracked 1,000 yards receiving despite the Redskins‘ propensity to utilize multiple receivers.

After the Redskins‘ loss in the season finale, Garcon was asked to reflect on his personal production. He was not interested.

“If we don’t win the Super Bowl championship, there’s always something better you can do,” Garcon said. “That’s what you play for. You play to go hard and win the championship regardless. Everything else is coming up short.”

That competitive gruffness defines Garcon’s playing style. He’s regarded as a quality blocker. His routes take him into dangerous spots on the field. If a third-and-7 was converted, it was easy to expect hearing Garcon’s name announced afterward. He led Washington with 52 catches for first downs; 66 percent of his receptions moved the chains.

There is no clear hierarchical replacement for Garcon on the roster. Jamison Crowder is a different type of receiver who lacks Garcon’s size. Ryan Grant has a similar build, and is the recipient of compliments on his routes whenever Washington coach Jay Gruden speaks of him, but he caught just nine passes last season.

The 30-year-old Garcon has also entrenched himself in local happenings away from football. He co-founded an area restaurant that has two locations. More important, Garcon was named the Redskins‘ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Which means both sides will be bringing an affinity and familiarity to negotiations.

“I’ve played a long time and been around a lot of talk,” Garcon said. “Like I say, January to March it’s different conversations and things happen, and stuff happens around the league you can’t control. At the end of the day, you just have to give 100 percent on the field and teams go back and look at the plays, and scout our performance all year. That’s all I can control is my effort on the field on every play and when I have the ball.”

Before the season ended, Jackson was part of rumors. One of which said he supposedly wants to return to Philadelphia. The last time he was there, the Eagles dumped him and numerous stories popped up as to why, ranging from supposed gang ties to a generally poor work ethic. The Redskins signed him shortly after.

Jackson was effective during his three seasons in Washington. Twice, including last season, he finished with more than 1,000 receiving yards. Each season, he caught a pass that produced at least a 77-yard completion. Jackson’s speed opens space on the field the way a shooter opens the basketball court.

However, he is a 30 year old reliant on speed. The Redskins appeared to be planning for his departure last season when they drafted Josh Doctson with their first-round pick. Instead of clarifying what could happen if Jackson left, Doctson only muddled the issue. He played just two games because of Achilles problems.

“This is a unique deal,” Gruden said after the season. “I can’t even guess for what’s going on with his Achilles, I really can’t. And I think it’s both of them. But the trainers are with him. I’m sure he has his own trainers [and] his own doctors, we have got doctors. Hopefully he can ramp it up, like you say, here in the next couple weeks and start running and moving, because he’s going to be a big part of our plans next year if he’s healthy.”

Jackson’s take on the situation is unclear. He did not speak with reporters after the season-ending loss. Jackson was also not in the Redskins‘ locker room when it was open to the media the following day.

Washington has the salary cap space to re-sign both. However, it also has a 28th-ranked, coordinator-less defense it has to fix. The Redskins have long tussled with the idea of paying shiny objects versus rewarding the grunts. This offseason, they have to decide which of their marquee receivers they will try to retain, if either.

“We’re going to lose some of our free agents,” Gruden said. “It’s our job to make sure we target the ones we definitely want back that really have an impact on this football team, not only from a talent standpoint but from a leadership standpoint. Both of those areas are very important to me, almost more so as a leadership standpoint. A lot of these guys have talent, but we have got to make sure we keep the great leaders in this building.”

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