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The Nate Washington Debate


A few days ago, the concept of trading or releasing Nate Washington became a very real possibility.

The drafting of Justin Hunter, combined with the previous signing of Kevin Walter, could very well end up mean we hand "Hands" to another NFL team.

At one point here on MCM, the idea of releasing Nate Washington was brought up by one brave soul. It was slammed, buried, and completely obliterated... or so we thought.

When we started to go after big-name wide receivers like Danny Amendola and Wes Welker, the media started to speculate that if we signed one of them, Nate Washington would be the "odd man out" in Tennessee.

This was still not taken very seriously. Then, Nate Washington went to the media, and told everyone that if he was going to be off the team, we would rather be released than traded.

Cue the serious discussion. Cue the "he quit on his team" rumors. Cue the talk of trades and the reporters working over their sources to try to get a scoop.

Then, the front office dismissing it. Then, the media still running with the story despite that. Then, most Titans fans still believing the media reports despite all the contradictory talk coming out of BSP.

One statement by Nate Washington on his preference, and the firestorm had commenced.

After the dust had settled and the only WR we had signed was the lowly Kevin Walter, the 'Trade Nate' talk subsided for a while. It got a few mentions here and there, but returned to obscurity for the most-part.

Then the draft came, and we traded up in the 2nd round to draft Justin Hunter. Now the talk has returned, and unlike last time, it's more than just media sensationalism.

It's real.

So now, I feel like it's time to give my personal breakdown of the pros and cons of keeping Nate Washington.

Keeping Nate Washington has the following advantages and disadvantages:

Advantage #1 - Depth at the Position

Let's face it; Our wide receivers have a history of getting injured. The most recent examples are Kenny Britt and Nate Washington himself. It has been dubbed the "Titans WR Curse".

Now, while I don't believe in that particular superstition, I do believe that being a WR with a quarterback that tends to throw high is a situation where you're going to end up taking some serious beatings.

With how injury prone Kenny Britt is, and with the fact that Justin Hunter is just one season removed from his college ACL injury, having a guy that can battle through injury and still put up numbers is a positive.

Nate Washington proved already that he can play and play well, despite being injured. He even proved that he can make some incredible plays while injured, like against the Saints in 2011. That kind of toughness is hard to replace.

Advantage #2 - Effect on the Younger Players

It is something that all NFL players can agree on; Being taught by an experienced teammate at your position has a lot of benefits that being taught by your position coach cannot provide you with.

Having a veteran around younger players at any position is great, as long as those veterans have some production to their name. As Jimmy covered in an article shortly after the Kevin Walter signing, Washington has more production than Walter, by a long-shot, so Walter is not a viable replacement for him.

And I don't know about you, but I'd prefer that Wright and Hunter get their advice from Nate Washington, not Kenny Britt.

Advantage #3 - Chemistry with Jake Locker

We lost Jared Cook to free agency this year. That was a good move, but there were two definite cons to letting him go. One, we lost a vertical threat. Two, we lost a guy that Jake Locker had chemistry with.

We made up for the first one by drafting Justin Hunter, but the second one isn't something you can make up for in one off-season. Thankfully, Jake Locker still has one ball-catcher that he has chemistry with. That ball-catcher is Nate Washington.

With the loss of Cook, the change in offensive co-ordinator, and the possibility of Velasco losing his starting spot to Schwenke, Jake Locker is quickly running out of guys that he can point to and say "We have great chemistry right now".

That alone makes Nate Washington's chemistry with him much more valuable.

Disadvantage #1 - Expense

From what I have heard so far, Nate Washington is the #4 receiver on the roster. He stands to make 4 to 5 million this season. (4.2 million base salary with 900K signing bonus)

Here's the comparison to other WR's in 2013, excluding Hunter since he hasn't signed his contract yet:

Cap Hit from Titans WR's in 2013:

Nate Washington: 5.1 M

Lavelle Hawkins: 2.5 M

Kenny Britt: 2.3 M

Kendall Wright: 1.8 M

Damian Williams: 1.5 M

Kevin Walter: 620K

The #4 receiver on your team making more than two of your starters combined is a bad thing, and it's the result of Nate Washington's ridiculous 2009 FA contract.

Ditching that old contract would be a good business move for the front office at this point.

Disadvantage #2 - Future Production / Draft Picks

When weighing production and future production, trading Nate Washington now would be the right move.

We already have a solid WR core right now, and Nate Washington likely won't see the field much barring an injury to a player in front of him on the depth chart. Trading him now for picks would give Ruston more opportunities in 2014, and with the way Webster has been drafting so far, that could get even more productive young guys on this team.

Future draft picks have a chance to give us more future production than Nate will probably give us on the field now.

Disadvantage #3 - The Roster Spot

Keeping Nate Washington on the roster means a high likelihood of one of our younger players being bumped off the roster, especially at the WR position. Again, this goes back to future production.

Keeping Nate on the roster could mean a younger guy with the potential to contribute could get bumped off the roster.

Final Statement:

Focusing purely on the business side of the issue, I can understand why trading or releasing Nate Washington would be a good move.

Focusing purely on the people side of the issue, I believe trading or releasing Nate Washington would be a bad move.

However, forcing ourselves to only see things from the one side of the issue makes us lose the ability to see the full picture.

The full picture is that no matter what happens with Nate Washington, we will gain and we will lose. There is no "perfect" option to be taken here. The only debate is which option contains the acceptable losses.

The easiest way for you to decide which side of that debate you are on, is to ask yourself this question:

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