It is the season for looking into the future, both to the 2016 season and beyond.
Let’s look at the Redskins three years from now. Who will still be here? Which players will be top performers? Here’s a possible snapshot of the team going into training camp in the year 2019. Yesterday we looked at the offense and today it's the 2019 defense.
To define the terms here, a blue chip player is one who is one of the top four to six players in the league at his position, is a consistent Pro Bowl caliber performer and at least occasionally gets All-Pro consideration.
A solid starter is also known as a red chip player. The team is happy with his level of play and is not looking to upgrade, These players are below the elite level but firmly in the top 10 or 12 at their positions. These players perhaps make an occasional visit to the Pro Bowl.
Potential starters are exactly that, players who could be starting in three years or who could be on the bench or playing elsewhere. Even if they are starting in Washington the team may be on the lookout for an upgrade.
Potential blue chip players: Josh Norman, Preston Smith
Solid starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland
Potential starters: Kendall Fuller, Matt Ioannidis, Junior Galette, Will Compton
Norman and Smith are both projections. The cornerback seems to be more of a sure thing, although he has performed at a high level for only about a season and a half. We know how that past performances don’t guarantee future returns for Redskins free agents. Smith is more of a stretch but he has displayed the potential to be a star.
Kerrigan will be 31 by the time the 2019 season starts. There is no reason to think he will be washed up by then, although the team may start looking for an eventual replacement in the draft.
Breeland works hard and keeps improving. It looks like his ceiling will be as a consistent starter but perhaps he could break through to the next level like Norman did.
Cravens will have a lot to learn but once he gets established in a role he should be a valued member of the defense.
Fuller could turn out to be in essence a second first-round pick for the Redskins if he can stay healthy. With the defensive line in flux, Ioannidis will have a shot at establishing himself this year.
For the first time in his career Compton enters the season as the starter. He has been taking on a leadership role as the defensive signal caller. The third-year player had his ups and downs last year and the organization will need some more evidence to determine if he is the long-term answer at Mike linebacker.
Galette may be a near-blue chipper in 2019, when he will be 31, or he might not be on the team. He’s on a one-year contract and if he plays well will the Redskins be able to pay him the premium contract that a star pass rusher commands? Smith will need a new contract by 2019 and between him and Kerrigan there will be a lot of money tied up in pass rushers. If Galette plays just OK, will the Redskins want to move on?
Of the other key performers on defense now, the one I might have included as a potential starter is Chris Baker. He will turn 32 early in the 2019 season. But he didn’t play much early in his career and he could have a lot of miles left.
Of the players listed above, Norman, Kerrigan, Cravens, Fuller, and Ioannidis currently are under contract through the 2019 season. Galette will be an unrestricted free agent and Compton will be a restricted free agent after the 2016 season. The contract of Breeland expires after 2017. Following the 2018 season the team will need a new deal for Smith.