Important Contract Decisions for the Redskins: Ryan Kerrigan

Posted on July 28, 2014 by Bryan Frantz

Last week, I discussed the contract situation of Brian Orakpo and some of the factors that will come into play when the Redskins have to make their decision on the productive outside linebacker.

Today, I'm going to discuss his pass-rushing partner of the last three years: Ryan Kerrigan.

Kerrigan is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 – one year after Orakpo and two years before Trent Murphy. Considering the numerous areas the Redskins could use help (offensive and defensive line, inside linebacker, the entire secondary), it seems questionable to invest heavily in three outside linebackers that all excel in pass rushing.

Then again, the most recent NFL game showed how powerful a dominant pass rush can be.

While the Redskins definitely need to address the future of their defensive line, as well as their secondary, a group of quality pass rushers at OLB is not a bad way to begin a turnaround on defense. Sure you only start two outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense, but there are endless ways to incorporate a trio of pass-rushing threats, especially in a Jim Haslett defense.

Kerrigan chasing Michael Vick

Photo Credit: John McDonnell / The Washington Post

But that's only if all three have quality seasons this year. If Orakpo is disappointing, he's gone. If Kerrigan is OK or better, it's potentially bad news for Rak, but Rak still controls his own destiny. If Murphy does not blow the coaching staff away this season and Kerrigan is anything less than elite, general manager Bruce Allen and coach Jay Gruden will be even more inclined to give Orakpo his extension.

Make no mistake: If the Redskins extend Brian Orakpo's contract after this year, the pressure on Ryan Kerrigan doubles next year.

In that situation, Orakpo is locked in for the foreseeable future and Murphy is signed through 2018, while Kerrigan is in a contract year. He will face a similar situation to the one Orakpo is currently facing, minus the health concerns. The big difference is Kerrigan will be fighting for one roster spot while there are two spots open for Orakpo; if Orakpo is re-signed, Kerrigan could be fighting for his job with Murphy.

So really, this whole contract situation is likely to remain in limbo until something happens with Orakpo. If he has a great year, he gets re-signed and then the pressure is on Kerrigan to up his production. If Rak has anything less than an above-average season (by his standards), and Kerrigan takes a step forward, Washington might be willing to take a leap of faith with Kerrigan and Murphy and enjoy the savings of not signing Orakpo.

Kerrigan has to continue producing impact plays, and he would boost his stock dramatically with an 11-sack season, but the nature of his contract negotiations with Washington will be primarily dictated by the Orakpo situation.

Much like Orakpo, Kerrigan has consistently been pretty good but not quite great. Take a look at the year-by-year numbers for each:

Orakpo (excluding 2012, when he missed all but two games with a pectoral injury):

  • First year: 50 tackles, 11 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 0 interceptions
  • Second year: 56 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 0 interceptions
  • Third year: 59 tackles, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions
  • Fourth year: 60 tackles, 10 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 1 interception

Kerrigan:

  • First year: 63 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 interception
  • Second year: 54 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception
  • Third year: 66 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions

While the numbers are not definitive, it's easy enough to argue that both players had the best season of their careers in 2013-14. However, the improvements were mild and not enough to warrant consideration immediate contract extension.

Orakpo got the franchise tag for this season, so he'll be quite literally playing for his money. Kerrigan has less to lose this season, but he's got everything to gain.

A big season from Kerrigan means he gets the extension, Orakpo is likely out (unless both players have big seasons and Murphy disappoints) and Murphy then has to show strides going forward. Kerrigan putting up 11-14 sacks alone would likely guarantee him $8 million annually through 2019; if he can add a few more takeaways, he could probably convince Dan Snyder to open up the wallet for eight digits.

While I'd be ecstatic if all three OLBs had monster seasons and Washington went forward with a trio of stud pass rushers, the more likely scenario is that one (or more) has a lackluster season and puts his own future in the nation's capital in jeopardy. Kerrigan has proven to be a playmaker – he has 24.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, two interceptions and two touchdowns in three seasons – but he has to show that he can be a star for a full season before I'm willing to let Orakpo walk.

Follow me on Twitter: @BFrantz202

next up:

Redskins Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

July 26, 2014

A look at the players who make up the 2014 Washington Redskins defensive line.

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