According to a Washington Post report, the Redskins may be inclined to exercise their fifth-year option on Robert Griffin III unless they end up selecting Marcus Mariota on April 30, the first day of the NFL draft. Since it seems unlikely that Mariota will still be available, it looks like they could decide to extend the option, which comes with a one-year salary of about $16.5 million.
There are upsides and there are downsides to activating Griffin’s option. If he reverts to the form that he displayed in 2012, when he was rookie of the year and led the Redskins to their only playoff appearance in the last seven years, then the $16.5 million will be a very reasonable salary for Griffin in 2016, perhaps a bargain. If he does not improve from 2014, when he struggled to be effective when passing from the pocket in head coach Jay Gruden’s offense and missed games to injury as well, the team can simply withdraw the option. It is guaranteed for injury only (and the injury bar is very high, to the point where he would have to miss the whole season) as long as they cancel it prior to the start of the league year in March.
But suppose he plays like he did in 2013, when he showed some flashes of his 2012 form but was inconsistent to the point where Mike Shanahan benched him at the end of the year? That might be good enough to want to keep him around to see if he will develop further but not good enough to warrant a $16.5 million salary. Of the possible outcomes here, boom, bust, or somewhere in between, this in between scenario is the most likely.
Then you are stuck with trying to negotiate a deal with him when he and his agent will see his starting point $16 million for 2016 since that essentially is the offer that’s on the table. The Redskins would essentially be trying to negotiate a pay cut for a player they want to build around. That’s never a good thing and Washington would be working from a position of weakness.
There is another option, although time is running short to get it done. I think that the best thing for the Redskins and Griffin to do is negotiate a short-term extension. Although exercising the option does not preclude working out an extension, it complicates it for the reasons outlined above.
He is guaranteed a $3.4 million salary for this year as part of his rookie deal so you have to write that into it. Do a two-year deal, guarantee him a total of $10 million and give him a modest 2016 salary that can escalate if he reaches performance benchmarks. After two years they will know where they stand and can either part ways or negotiate a longer extension.
The ace in the hole for the Redskins is the franchise tag. Should Griffin revert to his 2012 form in 2015 and the Redskins are having difficulty signing him they would have the option of giving him the franchise tag. That would be somewhere in the vicinity of $20 million. It’s not that $4 million more is not significant but in the scheme of a cap that is likely to be $150 million in 2016, it’s not a difference that is very damaging to the cap.
We will see what Scot McCloughan decides to do in the draft and then regarding the Griffin option. It will make for a few interesting days in early May.