Santana Moss vs Gaffney

In the past calendar year, the Redskins have drafted three wide receivers in Leonard Hankerson (third round), Niles Paul (fifth), and Aldrick Robinson (sixth) and added two young wide receivers in free agency, Pierre Garçon and Joshua Morgan.

Last summer, in moves that were delayed by the NFL lockout, the Redskins also secured the services of two older receivers in Jabar Gaffney (trade with Denver) and holdover Santana Moss, who had become an unrestricted free agent.

The addition of the five younger players plus the presence of holdovers Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin and Brandon Banks and a possible 2012 draft pick set up a chance for a battle between elder statesmen Moss and Gaffney for a roster spot.

Who would have the best chance of winning such a battle? Let’s look at the tale of the tape.

Age: Since this is about a youth movement, let’s get age out of the way first. Moss will be 33 when the season starts. Gaffney will be 31 on opening day and will turn 32 on Dec. 1. Moss is exactly a year and a half older than Gaffney. That’s not a huge difference but still significant.

2011 production: Moss had 46 receptions for 584 yards and four touchdowns last season. He did miss four games with a broken hand, but even if your project his numbers out over 16 games, you get 61/778/5, and even that would represent his worst season since 2002, his second year in the league. Gaffney had career highs in receptions with 68 and yards with 947. He also tied a career high with five touchdown receptions.

Last three years production: Was 2011 just an off year for Moss? Let’s go back a few seasons and see who has been more productive. Gaffney 2009-10 with Denver and 2011 in Washington had 187/2,254/9 (12.1 yards/catch) and Moss 2009-2011 with Washington 209/2,601/13 (12.4 yards/catch). Clearly Moss has had better production in recent seasons.

Run blocking: Everybody knows that this is important in Mike Shanahan’s offense, and if two players are close, it could be the deciding factor in who stays and who goes. The guys at Pro Football Focus rated Moss as about average when run blocking, while Gaffney was scored at -3.7, a couple of notches below average.

Salary cap: Yes, this is as much of a factor as any on-field measurables are. Gaffney counts $2.65 million against the cap, while Moss counts $4.816 million. There would be no dead cap to account for if Gaffney were traded or released. Moss would save $1.484 million if he were traded or released before June 1 and $3.15 million if released after June 1.

The salary cap is important. One of them might not make it to training camp because of that. And, certainly, both players could make it, although we’ll know more about that after the draft.

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