The Eagles have been quite busy the last few days signing players to new contracts. Two of those players, left tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce, were not set to be free agents until next year. This is the way the Eagles and some other teams, notably the 49ers, have operated for a number of years. By locking up their best players in advance of their free agent years, those teams are able to map out their cap strategies and personnel needs years in advance.
Can the Redskins pursue the same strategy? Could they take some of their roughly $30 million in salary cap room and make an investment in 2015 and beyond?
The short answer is yes but the longer answer is that they don’t have very many candidates for a long-term extension right now.
Before you jump in with the names of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, neither one of those players is eligible for an extension. Part of the 2011 CBA agreement that brought sanity to the rookie compensation system prohibits any player from renegotiating his deal before finishing three years in the league. So the quarterback and running back have to go on the back burner until after this season.
The players who remain on the roster from the draft class of 2011 are eligible for new contracts as they enter the last year of their rookie deals. The problem there is that there are few who the Redskins would want to lock up at this point. We’ll look at Ryan Kerrigan in a minute. But the second- and third-round picks from that year, Jarvis Jenkins and Leonard Hankerson, have both lost substantial time to injury and, in Jenkins’ case, suspension. Even at their better moments, neither has played well enough to warrant a new deal.
Perhaps a role player like Roy Helu Jr. might be a target for an extension. But with a new offense coming in this year it would be wise for both parties to wait.
Although Kerrigan would be a prime candidate for an extension, he is a different case from the rest of his draft classmates. Since he is a first-round pick, the Redskins have a 2015 option that they almost certainly will exercise. Kerrigan was taken outside of the top 10 so the option would be worth a salary equal to the averages of the top 25 players at his position with the top three excluded. That number is hard to nail down in advance but as of now it look like it will come to around $4 million for the season. After that he would be a free agent.
Since Kerrigan essentially has two years left on his contract due to the option, the Redskins can wait another year and still work something out with Kerrigan prior to the free agency deadline pressure. There is incentive for Kerrigan to wait as well,
Another player who could wait a year is Trent Williams. He has two years left on his rookie contract from 2010 with a cap hit of about $10 million this year and $14 million in 2015. Like with Kerrigan, this one should probably wait a year.
We will have to wait another year, then, to see if the Redskins want to get into the business of locking up their younger, key players in advance of them becoming free agents. With Morris, Kerrigan, and Williams all set to become free agents in 2016 and Griffin going into his option year then, next spring would be a good time to start.