SNIDER: Redskins' top priority is tight end

Rick Snider
January 23, 2020 - 12:07 pm

The Washington Redskins' most important offseason acquisition is not a touted collegiate pass rusher or even a quarterback.

This team needs a tight end. Badly.

Dan Snyder – open your wallet for Atlanta free agent Austin Hooper. It will cost a fortune, but tight end is vital to this offense working.

The Falcons are trying to re-sign Hooper, who caught 75 passes last season after 71 in 2018. But maybe Hooper smells big money and maybe it’s time for Snyder to end his free agency drought and get a playmaker who helps second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins. If Hooper stays with Atlanta, then sign Los Angeles Chargers’ Hunter Henry, who caught 55 balls last season.

The Redskins can’t risk a second season without a tight end who turns short, Plan B passes into long gains. Oft-injured Jordan Reed can’t be expected to stay healthy after missing last season with his seventh concussion. It’s likely time for him to retire or the Redskins to move on despite him being a talented player. Vernon Davis turns 36 years old on Friday and the Redskins need to move on to younger players in a roster reshuffle under new coach Ron Rivera.

Tight end is so important in incoming offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s offense. His father Norv Turner made the tight end a focal point while coaching the Redskins from 1994-2000 in this hybrid of the old “Air Coryell” offense. Stephen Alexander was a 2000 Pro Bowler with 47 catches as a 1998 second-rounder. Good speed across the middle let him stretch plays. Jamie Asher caught 49 passes in 1997 as a Pro Bowl alternate. The system maxed both of their potential.

The tight end in this system provides not only a safety valve when Haskins can’t reach his primary target, but the capability of stretching plays. It’s meant for 60 catches and a handful of touchdowns per season, but even more so moving the chains.

The Redskins don’t have this pass-catching end on the roster if Reed doesn’t return. Jeremy Sprinkle is a blocking tight end forced occasionally to catch a ball. Unfortunately, the draft doesn’t figure to help. There isn’t a top-rated tight end in the draft and the team currently lacks a second-round pick.

The Redskins need to sign a free agent, preferably Hooper. Find the tip of the spear for this offense. It will change the Redskins like Alexander, Asher and Reed did.

Otherwise, the offense is a man short and playing 10 on 11.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks