Will Kerrigan's option help Redskins get a long-term deal?

Will Kerrigan's option help Redskins get a long-term deal?
May 3, 2014, 1:00 pm
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As expected, the Redskins picked up their fifth-year option on linebacker Ryan Kerrigan on Friday. In the small picture, that means that he is under contract for the 2015 season for $7.038 million. But what does it mean in the big picture?

A cap number of around $7 million is not huge by any means but as of right now it is the sixth-highest figure the Redskins have on the books for 2015. An early estimate shows that the Kerrigan contract will leave the Redskins with right around $10 million in cap space going into the 2015 season. There is plenty that could be done to increase available space down the road but that’s where they stand right now.

One good thing about the amount of Kerrigan’s option is that it is in line with what he could expect in a long-term deal. Some of the options that teams are exercising are higher than what the player might expect to get on the open market. To the player’s camp, the option sets a floor for his value and it is hard to negotiate a long-term deal at a lower average salary. And then there are others who will be stuck in deals that are well below what they could get if they were free agents. That doesn’t not make for a happy, productive player.

But for Kerrigan, the option deal is close to what he might make as a free agent. His market value might be closer to the $8-$9 million range and he could boost that with a solid 2014 performance. But as of right now there is no reason to think he will be unhappy with a $7 million 2015 paycheck that will become fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year.

The option does not preclude the Redskins working out a new deal with Kerrigan at any point in time. That might be the best solution if they can work something out. They could lower his 2015 cap number with, say, a four-year, $35 million contract.

Signing Kerrigan to such a contract would have an effect on the future of Brian Orakpo. A Kerrigan deal wouldn’t make it impossible for the team to lock up Orakpo to a deal in the range of around $10 million per year. But it appears that Orakpo wants more than that and the organization will have to be cautious about committing too much money in one position, even though outside linebacker is a key position in the 3-4 defense.

Other factors may complicate tying up enough money to keep both Orakpo and Kerrigan. A year from now the Redskins will have to pick up the option on the contract of Robert Griffin III, which will increase his 2016 salary cap number into the $15 million range. Trent Williams’ contract is up after the 2015 season so something will have to be done there.

All of this calculating may be a bit premature. We will have to see what happens on the field in 2014. Injuries and performances that are well above or well below expectations can change the picture in a hurry. But it appears that some choices will have to be made and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.