Redskins stay or go: Linebacker Perry Riley

Redskins stay or go: Linebacker Perry Riley
February 21, 2014, 10:30 am
Tandler - Tarik

With 20 Redskins set to hit the open market in a few weeks, GM Bruce Allen and his staff have some tough decisions to make. There are some big names on the list (i.e. Brian Orakpo, Brandon Meriweather and Perry Riley, to name a few). There are some obscure ones (like J.D. Walton) as well. All of the decisions, though, have the potential to have a lasting impact. In the coming days, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will give you their thoughts on who should stay and who should go.

Position/name: ILB/Perry Riley
Age: 25
2013 cap number: $1.46 million
2013 stats: 72 tackles, three sacks, one interception

Background: After joining the Redskins as a 2010 fourth-round pick, Riley played just a handful of snaps on defense for his first year and a half with the team. All along, he was spending his lunch breaks and other spare time in the film room with London Fletcher and in Week 10 in 2011 he stepped in at the Jack inside linebacker spot and he hasn’t left. Riley’s play in his two and a half years as the starter has been solid but rarely spectacular. His importance to the Redskins ramps up this year with the retirement of London Fletcher. If Riley is back, he will take over the role of defensive signal caller, a job he has been studying to take over for the last four years.

Tandler: Stay—This will come down to a matter of money and the Redskins are going to end up dealing with prices set by their dumbest competitor. In this case, that would be the Dolphins, who last year gave inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe a five-year contract worth an average of $7 million per year despite the fact that Ellerbe had started a total of just 14 games in four years with the Ravens. According to reports, Riley’s camp is looking for a similar deal. The Redskins will point to the deal that Fletcher, a 16-year veteran with three Pro Bowls on his resume, just completed. That paid an average of just over $5.3 million per year. I suspect that Riley will shop around when free agency starts and the Redskins will end up keeping him for a deal closer in value to Ellerbe’s than to Fletcher’s. The truth is, they have no choice. Despite the fact that they have known Riley would be a free agent and that Fletcher was bound to retire, they have drafted only one potential replacement at inside linebacker and Keenan Robinson has spent much of the last two years on the injury list. Poor planning mixed with a little bad luck will force the Redskins to overpay.

El-Bashir: Stay—As Rich correctly points out, Riley appears to have almost all the leverage here, despite taking a small step backward in 2013. Why? He’s a 25-year-old who hasn’t missed a game since becoming a full-time starter midway through his rookie season. He’s also posted 115 or more tackles and three or more sacks in each of the last two seasons while playing a prominent role on special teams. Fletcher is retiring and will need to be replaced, most likely via free agency. And there’s no one on the roster who’s anywhere close to being ready to being ready to step in at either inside linebacker spot. So what are the Redskins going to do? Sign two new inside linebackers? That's too expensive, too disruptive and has disaster written all over it. I’m also inclined to give good players (like Riley) who saw a dip in their stats last season a bit of a mulligan. Yes, they are pros. But they are humans, too. And it could not have been easy to focus on the task at hand with all the distractions that enveloped Redskins Park. Riley definitely possesses the physical and mental tools to be a Pro Bowler one day. So I say pay the man and help him sharpen his skills.