As Jay Gruden continues the process of assembling the playbook, people in another part of the building at Redskins Park are looking forward to free agency and how best to utilize the approximately $28 million in cap space the Redskins have. Here we’ll take a position-by-position look at the cap situation and explore some of the Redskins’ options. So far, we’ve looked at wide receivers, offensive backs, the offensive line, and the defensive line. Next up, linebackers.
The Redskins currently have seven linebackers under contract.
—The Redskins will carry dead cap charges for the voiding contracts of London Fletcher ($2.1 million) and Brian Orakpo ($715,000).
—Those two are free agents, although Fletcher intends to retire. The contracts of Perry Riley, Darryl Tapp, Nick Barnett, Rob Jackson, and Bryan Kehl (injured reserve) are set to expire and they also are slated to be free agents when the league year starts on March 11.
—As one might expect with only one bona fide NFL starter signed, the Redskins rank low in the NFL in terms of spending on linebackers. Only two teams have fewer cap dollars committed to linebackers.
Adding and subtracting
Orakpo and Riley have been identified as two of the team’s top priorities to re-sign and according to reports contract talks with both have begun. In addition, they have to find a second starting inside linebacker to take Fletcher’s spot.
How much Orakpo and Riley are likely to make will be the topics of some upcoming posts so we won’t go into a bunch of detail here. But let’s take a quick look.
Orakpo’s floor is Paul Kruger’s deal from a year ago, a five year, $40 million contract. His ceiling is the contract extension Clay Matthews signed last year, a five-year deal that averages $13 million.
His production (39.5 career sacks) puts him closer to Matthews (42.5 sacks at the time he signed his extension) than Kruger (15.5). So let’s say something like $11 million per year.
That just happens to be right around the estimated $10.9 million franchise tag salary will be for linebackers. That is an option the Redskins could explore if they are concerned about losing him due to an above-market offer by a team with a lot of salary cap space.
According to the Washington Post, Riley’s camp may be looking for a contract comparable to the one that Dannell Ellerbe signed a year ago. He got a five-year deal averaging almost $7 million per year. The Redskins will point to the contract that Fletcher just completed, a deal that averaged less than $5.5 million per year.
It seems that the Ellerbe deal is an outlier, especially considering that he had started just 14 games when he signed the contract. Two of the four Pro Bowl inside linebackers are on second contracts. Paul Posluszny has a six-year contract worth $7 million per year and Derrick Johnson has a six-year contract paying him a shade over $6 million per year. Riley has not yet been in the Pro Bowl conversation. He could end up with something closer to what Fletcher made with some bonus clauses and escalators if he does make the Pro Bowl.
The Redskins might not have much left to spend on the spot next to Riley. Kerrigan is only on his rookie contract for one more year and then there is a team option for the 2015 season that will call for a salary of some $4-$5 million. The Redskins may try to work Keenan Robinson or a 2014 draft pick into the role with a veteran stopgap coming in at a relatively low salary this season.