- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2017

So long, DeSean. Farewell, Pierre.

It was fun while it lasted. The Redskins top two wide receivers are off to greener pastures. On Thursday, the official start of free agency, DeSean Jackson signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pierre Garcon hopped aboard with the San Francisco 49ers.

Jackson is set to make $35 million with $20 million guaranteed over three years according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Garcon’s deal is also for three years, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, and is front-loaded to pay him $23 million over the first two seasons with a $12 million signing bonus. Both players posted heartfelt thanks to the Redskins organization on their Instagram accounts.

Happy NFL New Year, Redskins. Fixing this matter of the quarterback should top your list of resolutions but, after that, he’s going to need a few people to throw the ball to. With the wide receiver market shrinking fast, you’ll probably have to look on the current roster or in the draft.

There was always a good chance that Washington would lose Jackson and Garcon, both 1,000-yard receivers last season, to free agency. Last week at the combine, Jay Gruden said as much.

“Obviously, DeSean and Pierre had great years, 1,000 yards each and those are going to be hard to replace. But the one thing that I have to do as a coach is make sure we coach the guys that we have,” Gruden said.

Crowder, 23, is young, talented, and already productive. He caught 67 passes for 847 yards and led the team with seven touchdowns last season. Coaching Crowder should be a joy for Gruden going forward. It’s more a question of who they’ll have to help him.

Jackson and Garcon combined for nearly 43 percent of the Redskins’ receiving yards last season. Add in Crowder, and that number grows to 59.8 percent. Without bringing in a stud from the outside, someone in the remaining 40 percent is going to have to bite off a bigger piece of the pie.

“Free agency, you’re never going to be able to sign everybody you want as a coach. Shoot, I’d like to have every highest player,” Gruden continued last week. “I’d like to have Alshon Jeffery, Pierre and DeSean. What the heck, give ‘em all to me! But I know that’s not going to happen.”

He was right. Hate to break it to you, coach, but Jeffery signed for one year and $14 million with the division rival Eagles, who also snagged former 49er Torrey Smith at $15 million over three years. You’ll also be seeing Brandon Marshall twice next year; he’s a New York Giant now.

Wide receivers went off the board left and right. Former Buffalo Bill Robert Woods went for $39 million over five years to the Rams, with a reported $15 million of it guaranteed. The Browns closed in on a four-year, $32.5 million deal with Kenny Britt. Kenny Stills signed a new deal in Miami.

There are a few free agents floating around. Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor was set to visit with Washington Thursday night. Pryor, a converted quarterback, caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns last season. His catch rate was poor — 55 percent — but consider that Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, Charlie Whitehurst and Robert Griffin III were throwing the passes.

The Redskins also have a number of in-house options. Crowder’s value is established. Josh Doctson is unproven but talented, and his recovery is on-schedule. The team also has Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris and Kendal Thompson on the roster.

“I do feel very, very good about Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson,” Gruden said. “I love the fact that Mo Harris got a lot of work in. He’s going to develop. And we have some other guys, younger guys, Kendal Thompson, in the building and I think they’re going to be good players.”

The Redskins could also bolster their receiving group in the draft. They met with several top prospects, including Jackson disciple and 40-yard dash champ John Ross and JuJu Smith-Schuster, at the combine last week.

Gruden, ever the optimist, said at the time that he hoped to keep Jackson and Garcon, but that he knew it might not be possible. The Redskins still have around $40 million in cap space, even with Kirk Cousins taking up $24 million, but have other needs to attend to.

“If we are unfortunate enough to lose them both, I’m not going to blink,” Gruden said at the time. “I feel good about Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant and Josh Doctson and then we have some other free agents that we’re looking at. We have plan Bs and Cs ready to go.”

• Nora Princiotti can be reached at nprinciotti@washingtontimes.com.

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