Shanahan on special teams: "Much improved"
Even though the Redskins still have almost half of their 2013 season left to play, their 3-6 record has turned at least some of the conversation to 2014. During Mike Shanahan’s news conference on Wednesday, a couple of contract-related topics came up.
One was Shanahan’s own situation. The five-year contract that he signed in 2010 runs out after the 2014 season. Generally, NFL head coaches are reluctant to work a year as a “lame duck” coach since it can undermine his authority among the players. Shanahan was asked if he was thinking about his contract status.
“Not at all. I’ve got a contract for next year,” he said. “I’ve got a contract this year. I’m concerned about our games. I’ve been very lucky – I’ve been in this profession for a long time and your focus is on your job. And I say that with all due sincerity – it’s something I do not think about. Anytime I talk about a contract, if it’s with a player or a coach, it’s always after the season.”
Shanahan has a contract for next season but many Redskins players don’t, including seven of the players who are likely to start on defense Sunday against the Eagles. Linebackers Brian Orakpo, Perry Riley, and London Fletcher and the entire starting secondary of cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson and safeties Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty, are slated to be free agents in March. So are about a half dozen key reserves on both sides of the ball.
Playing in the last year of a contract can be a double-edged sword. Players want to perform their absolute best to maximize their values on the market. On the other hand, an injury, even one that is only moderately serious, can cost a player millions.
Shanahan, of course, would like to see all of his players who are up for new contracts play their hardest without regard to other factors.
“If you’re a guy that’s really worried about your contract and not worried about the job that you’re doing you might not have the right guy anyhow,” he said. “So we’re hoping we have guys that want to go out and give us everything that they have to possibly get that new contract if that’s what their motivation is.”
“So I can’t speak for them but I think anybody that’s in the last year of their contract—some of these players—we understand the reality of what we’re dealing with. They’d like to put the best performance on tape. That gives them more leverage and rightfully so. We’d like our players to make as much money as possible because they work extremely hard for us.”
It is unlikely that the Redskins will be able to pay all of their free agents as much money as they would like to make. Although the Redskins will have some $25 million in salary cap room they will still have to pick and choose which players will “make as much money as possible” with them and which will have to earn their paychecks elsewhere.
There is no salary cap for coaches and Shanahan certainly would like to perform well enough to earn an extension. Shanahan’s status as a topic of conversation will fade if the team is able to put on a run to the playoffs. But if they fall out of playoff contention, the talk will do nothing but get louder.