WASHINGTON — In the end, Robert Griffin III was just another name on a list, one of four players released by the Washington Redskins on Monday to create salary-cap space.
The move, expected for some time, brings an end to the quarterback’s sudden-rise-and-stunning-fall saga with a team that traded a bevy of draft picks to acquire him — and now receives nothing in return as he departs. The move gets Griffin’s 2016 contract, worth about $16 million, off the payroll before Wednesday, when the new league year begins and free agents can be signed.
It also closes the book on RG3’s tumultuous tenure in Washington. He arrived as a Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 2 overall choice in the 2012 NFL draft — a pick that came from the Rams at the high price of three first-round selections plus a second-rounder — and immediately became a star and national sensation. He leaves having spent all of last season on the sideline, never allowed to take so much as a single snap during a game.
As a free agent, he can sign anywhere.
In a lengthy posting on Instagram, Griffin wrote: “Although my time here is over, I’m excited about what the future brings!!!! I look forward to finding the team where God has me to be and growing with that team on the way to World Championships.”
The NFC East champions also released safeties Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson, and defensive end Jason Hatcher, part of a busy day that removes nearly $30 million from Washington’s spending toward the cap and brings the team below the ceiling. In addition, fullback Darrel Young and nose tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton indicated on Twitter that they would not be brought back.
None of those other decisions by general manager Scot McCloughan was as significant as that involving Griffin.
Four years ago, in a zone-read offense tailored to his sprinter’s speed, Griffin earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and led the Redskins to a division title. But in a home playoff game against Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, Griffin at first was hobbled by a clearly hurt right knee and then wound up face-down on the turf with torn ligaments. He was never the same player and his relationship with then-coach Mike Shanahan devolved.
Griffin returned quickly from reconstructive knee surgery — “All in for Week 1” was his attention-grabbing slogan — but Year 2 did not go well. He and Shanahan clashed over Griffin’s desire to become more of a traditional pocket passer, and the QB was benched for the final three games. In 2014, with Shanahan gone and Jay Gruden in charge, Griffin dislocated his left ankle in Week 2 and missed about half the season. Gruden was critical of Griffin’s ability and he, too, sat the player.
In February 2015, Gruden declared Griffin would be the starting quarterback. But by the end of the preseason, which included a bizarre back-and-forth over whether Griffin was ready to return from a concussion, Gruden announced that Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick the same year Griffin entered the league, earned the No. 1 spot.
Tumbling all the way to third-string duty, behind Cousins and Colt McCoy, Griffin was in uniform once on a game day — and that was because the Redskins couldn’t find enough healthy players at other positions to fill out an active roster. Cousins was given the franchise tag by the Redskins last week and signed the tender for a one-year deal worth nearly $20 million.
The telegenic, talkative and hashtag-tweeting Griffin faded into the background last season, abiding by the Redskins’ wish that he not do interviews.
“Robert handled it very well. Obviously wasn’t happy,” Gruden said in January. “I think in the long run, hopefully it’ll make him a better quarterback. I know he grew a lot being a third-string quarterback here.”
That day, when some players cleaned out their lockers, Griffin left behind a sign filled with life advice, beginning with the line: “People are often unreasonable, irrational, & self-centered; forgive them anyway.”