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As Usual, Redskins Off To Fast Start On First Day Of Free Agency

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

Understanding that a franchise quarterback is nothing without someone to throw the ball to, the Washington Redskins added two receivers shortly after free agency opened on Tuesday and agreed to a new contract with defensive end Adam Carriker.

Morgan

Garcon

It was a busy day for the Redskins, who signed Pierre Garcon, formerly of Indianapolis, and Washington native Josh Morgan, who played at Virginia Tech and spent his first four NFL seasons in San Francisco.

The team also filed paperwork with the league to make official a Thursday trade that would help it acquire the No. 2 pick from St. Louis, likely to acquire Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. And as the night continued on, it was doing its best to finalize an agreement with a third receiver – Eddie Royal, another former Virginia Tech standout.

With so much activity, there were very few indications that the salary cap penalties assessed to the Redskins by the league Monday affected the team’s plans. The NFL docked the team $36 million in available cap space, split evenly over the next two years, for front-loading contracts when there was no salary cap; only creative wording in the deals handed out Tuesday gave any sign that the team was effected.

Washington, which expected to open the new league year with roughly $35 million in available salary for the upcoming season, instead had around half that. It got around that challenge, according to multiple reports, by back-loading contracts and creating unique out clauses; Garcon, for example, was given a five-year, $42.5 million contract with $20.5 million guaranteed but will make only $2.5 million in a base salary this year. Morgan, likewise, agreed to a five-year, $12 million deal that can be voided after two seasons, and Carriker signed a four-year, $20 million contract with $7 million guaranteed that can be bought out after one year.

Carriker, an unrestricted free agent who had a career-high 5.5 sacks last season, had been negotiating with the team for some time. It was merely happenstance, he said, that the team’s most agreeable offer came an hour after free agency began.

In a favorable twist, the late offer allowed his agent to take phone calls from other teams. Carriker wouldn’t say which, or even how many, teams expressed interest, but that it did help him reinforce that he was reaching a deal with the Redskins for fair market value.

“I mean, I wanted to come back, so I’m glad it worked out this way,” said Carriker, a first-round pick of St. Louis in 2008 who made $12.5 million over five years in his rookie contract. “Getting the chance to talk [to other teams] was great. It just worked out that way. If it hadn’t worked out, we would have discussed more elsewhere, but it’s great that we didn’t have to.”

Garcon, who grew into a reliable receiver for the Colts over the last four years, was determined to test the market after rejecting a five-year, $35 million deal to stay in Indianapolis in early February. He was the first player to switch teams, announcing on his Facebook page not 45 minutes after the 4 p.m. start to free agency that he would join the Redskins.

“I wanted you all to hear it from me [first] before [you] saw it on the news … I will be signing with the Washington Redskins and I’m very excited about the opportunity in front of me,” Garcon’s statement read. “I want to thank all Colts fans from the bottom of my heart for all the love and support you’ve shown me the past [four] years and I hope that at some level [you] will still follow my career, as I will continue to share my life with you on here.”

The pairing of Garcon, 25, and Morgan, 26, should allow that rookie quarterback to grow with two moderately experienced targets. The speedy Garcon and sure-handed Morgan will overhaul a passing game that failed to produce a 1,000-yard receiver last year – veteran Jabar Gaffney had 947 yards – because of instability out wide and under center.

It also means the Redskins currently have a logjam at the position, with Gaffney, Santana Moss and six others under contract for 2012.

Washington did not agree to new deals with any of its free agents from last season – among them, linebacker London Fletcher, safety LaRon Landry, quarterback Rex Grossman and running back Tim Hightower – in the hours leading up to the start of the new year, meaning all are free to negotiate with other teams. The Redskins are also yet to address needs at right tackle and in the defensive backfield.

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