For sixth-year veteran wide receiver Josh Morgan, the upcoming season is one of huge importance.
Make it gargantuan importance.
For a 28-year-old wide receiver with mediocre productivity, this season is the demarcation between being a Redskin for the rest of his career or a career journeyman in the vain of Brandon Lloyd, Donte Stallworth, or Brandon Stokley. All three players mentioned have enjoyed long careers, with productive seasons scattered here and there, and with pit stops in numerous cities.
For Morgan, a Washington, D.C. native, he would love to spend the rest of his playing days donning the burgundy and gold.
In the 2012 free agency period, Morgan agreed to a contract worth $12 million over the first two years, with $7.5 million guaranteed. His full contract is for five years, but the final three years can be voided. Morgan's 2012 season was humdrum at best. He recorded 48 receptions for 510 yards and only two touchdowns.
Part of Morgan's lack of production stemmed from playing the season with torn ligaments in both hands. The Washington Post reported in February that Morgan underwent surgeries to repair his hands, so hopefully that cuts down on his dropped passes. HTTR 24-7 puts Morgan's drops last year at 7.
In the 2014 off-season, the Redskins will be flush with cash to spend during free agency. Robert Griffin III ("RG3") will be prepping for his third season, and the Redskins will be prepping for a legitimate Super Bowl run.
Whether or not the Redskins opt to void Morgan's contract will hinge on his production this season and whether he develops the chemistry with RG3 to validate his continued presence on the team.
Jeremy Maclin, who has averaged 64 receptions in four seasons with the Eagles and has scored twice as many touchdowns as Morgan, will be a free agent. So will Titans' receiver Kenny Britt. The 6'3", five-year veteran has battled some injuries, but he has shown potential to be a big-time player. Sure to command attention on the market will be the Chargers' Danario Alexander. The 6'5" receiver is poised for a breakout year after recording 37 receptions, 658 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. All three players could be on the Redskins' radar.
Morgan's competition might come from within too.
Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson will both have the opportunity this season to unseat Morgan for playing time across from Pierre Garcon. The 34-year-old Santana Moss is in all likelihood playing in the final season of a very good NFL career, leaving the receiving corp in flux upon this season's completion.
Besides Garcon, the other positions will be up for grabs. Morgan's future with the team will be judged solely on this season. The competition is thick and the stakes are high for a Redskins team building for the Super Bowl.
Personally, I'm rooting for Josh Morgan. I hope his hands heal and he emerges as a good compliment to Garcon. He's one of the high character players often overlooked in the NFL, where its stars are routinely arrested for strip club brawls, DUIs and now murder. Morgan was recognized by the DC Council for the charity work he performs around the city and for providing District kids with a role model.
However, good tides mean little in a sport where stats rule supreme. A player's fantasy football value is more coveted than his community value.
Morgan is not and will not be a star. But he doesn't have to be. Garcon is the playmaker. Garcon will provide the Sportscenter highlights. Morgan just needs to produce, consistently. He can, and surely has, learned a lot from the sagacious Santana Moss, who after age robbed him of his speed and get-up, has remained a viable option. Moss still has the best hands on the Redskins and led the team in touchdown receptions last season.
If Morgan can make the tough catch, become a reliable option for RG3, deliver the hard block and avoid boneheaded mistakes like in the St. Louis game, he will be worth keeping around for the final three years of his contract.
A betting man would guess that Morgan needs to churn out a 50 catch, 700-800 yard season to convince the Redskins to honor the remaining years of his contract. That type of production would put Morgan on par with other number two receivers such as Malcom Floyd, T.Y. Hilton, Nate Washington, and Hakeem Nicks.
A Super Bowl run is in the works for the Redskins, who feature one of the sports brightest stars in RG3, a stud running back in Alfred Morris, and a much improved defense. Coach Shanahan is biting at the chomp to secure his legend with a third Super Bowl ring and become the first head coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. The ride will be fun and whether or not Morgan is along for it is in his hands, literally.