Redskins starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger bypassed a chance at the free agent market and signed a five-year contract with the Redskins a few days before the start of NFL free agency.
The signing raised a few eyebrows. The Redskins drafted guard Josh LeRibeus in the third round a year ago and he held his own playing in parts of two games at the end of the season when Lichtensteiger was out injured. Many expected LeRibeus to push for a starting job this year.
But Lichtensteiger’s contract makes it clear that he will be the starter this year and probably next.
According to a source, the five-year deal is worth a total of $17.5 million with a signing bonus of $2.75 million. Between the signing bonus, a $1 million first-year salary and a workout bonus of $250,000 Lichtensteiger gets $4 million in the first year of the contract.
That’s not a huge commitment in the grand scheme of NFL dollars but it is substantial enough to say that the Redskins are planning on Lichtensteiger being the starter in 2013.
Because it’s a five-year deal, the signing bonus proration is only $550,000 and the cap hit for 2013 is a manageable $1.8 million. Next year the base salary goes up to $2.5 million plus the $250,000 workout bonus, increasing his cap hit to $3.3 million. For the last three years of the deal, the cap hit goes above $4 million.
Lichtensteiger just turned 28, hardly an advanced age for an interior lineman. He will be 32 in the last year of his contract so it is not unthinkable that he will play out the contract.
For that to happen, he needs to be playing at a fairly high level. In 2015 there will be something of a spike in the cap as the new TV deals kick in (it will not be a huge spike, it is designed to have strong but gradual grown from that year on). If Lichtensteiger is playing well his $4.3 million cap hit will be fairly easy to handle. But if he’s not and the Redskins decide to move on, eating $1.65 million in dead cap will not be a problem.
By 2015, LeRibeus will be in the final year of his rookie deal. If the Redskins want to get him on the field before 2015 they might consider opening up another position for him. Chris Chester and Will Montgomery are both 30 and the dead money cost for releasing one of them in 2014 would be fairly low ($1.5 million for Montgomery, $1.6 million for Chester) so perhaps a move could be made there.
This, of course, is just a look at some of the financial possibilities. Chester is signed through 2015, Montgomery through 2016 and Lichtensteiger through 2017 There is no indication that the Redskins are planning to release anybody and they could well be content to keep their interior line intact for the next few years and have LeRibeus and fellow 2012 draft pick Adam Gettis serve as backups.
It’s not a bad spot to be in. They can go with veterans as long as their performance warrants. If the time comes to make a change they have both promising backups and the ability to move on without creating a major hole in the salary cap. It’s a solid blend of stability and flexibility.
In any case, the interior line will be stable this year. The movement to younger and cheaper line will have to wait at least until 2014.