Redskins must decide what to do with free agent

He's a tight end capable of big numbers. He's a risk because of his background. He's expensive for a team needing to slash the salary cap.

Redskins tight end Fred Davis is all of the above. And it's why he'll be an interesting player to watch when free agency begins March 12. Here are some issues and questions the Redskins face in deciding whether or not to re-sign him.

Could they let him walk? » Sure. After all, the Redskins went 7-3 in games he did not play. And Logan Paulsen proved he could do more than block. However, Davis is faster and more athletic. This is a coaching staff that wants to attack downfield and wants big yards after the catch. Why lose a potential playmaker such as Davis? Paulsen is an excellent blocker with strong hands, but he averaged 9.1 yards per catch in the last six regular season games.

The Redskins averaged 29.7 points with Davis in the lineup and 25.8 without, though they reached 30 per game over the final seven games. And having a healthy Pierre Garcon paired with a healthy Davis would excite both players, not to mention the coaches. Only two players surpassed 85 yards receiving in a game last season: Garcon and Davis. The latter had five such games in 2011.

The market » It's a solid draft for tight ends, giving teams less expensive options in April.

Several league sources said not only will his Achilles injury and potential one-year drug suspension (should he test positive once more) hurt him, but so, too, could his decision to play attorney. Davis represented himself in a civil lawsuit, the transcript of which led to numerous wisecracks.

As for the total package one executive texted, "Definitely hurts his market value, probably doesn't kill it though."

That doesn't mean he won't sign elsewhere; tight ends continue to play prominent roles on many teams and Davis is considered a good player, albeit with a cross-your-finger background at a time when teams might be more cautious because of a salary cap that only slightly increased.

Contract possibilities »

The Redskins could sign him to a one-year deal with incentives; one league source guessed it could start around $4 million. Because he only played in seven full games this past season those incentives wouldn't be hard to reach. Davis could re-prove himself then cash in next offseason.

The other option is to make him a multi-year offer, building in provisions that limit their risk if he should get suspended and lowering the initial cap hit.

What we're hearing » The Redskins have told others they expect to re-sign Davis. Some took note of what general manager Bruce Allen said last month in Richmond about Davis: "We won't know a lot until later in the spring where he's at." As one NFL source who knows Allen well said, "Every word he says is scripted." And Allen's message could be viewed as a way to dampen the market for Davis. Not that Allen's thought is inaccurate.

And coach Mike Shanahan told Redskins.comTV of Davis' Achilles injury, "very seldom do you come back at 100 percent."

Another negotiating ploy: The Redskins don't think he'll be 100 percent so they'll want to pay him accordingly. As of now, though, it's likely they will be the ones paying him in 2013.