Jim Haslett listed four of the Redskins’ pending free agents that he would like to be back. One of them, DeAngelo Hall, is signed, sealed, and delivered. We discussed the very quiet state of the Brian Orakpo negotiations yesterday. And the chatter is that the Redskins and Chris Baker are going well and it would be a surprise if they didn’t come to an agreement at some point.
That leaves inside linebacker Perry Riley and it appears that there is some distance between the Redskins and Riley’s camp. There seems to be little chance that Riley will be signed before free agency starts on March 11.
What happens in modern sports is that free agent prices that teams have to deal with are set by their dumbest competitors. In the past, the Redskins have been among the not-so-smart teams setting high player salaries. Now, they are in a situation where they could be paying for the reckless spending of others.
It has been reported that Riley wants a contract comparable to the one that the Dolphins gave Dannell Ellerbe a year ago. He got a deal worth $35 million over five years despite having started just 14 games in four NFL seasons.
As Evan Silva of Rotoworld, who ranked Riley as the 103rd-best free agent available, said that Riley isn’t worth half of what Ellerbe makes. And while the Redskins are willing to pay more than that, they will point to the deal that the now retired London Fletcher signed in 2012. The veteran signed for two years and an average of $5.4 million. At the time he signed the contract, Fletcher has 14 years of NFL experience and he was coming off of his third straight Pro Bowl appearance. It’s hard to argue that Riley is worth more than Fletcher.
What Riley ultimately gets paid may come down to supply and demand. There was a report that seven teams have contacted D’Qwell Jackson, released by the Browns yesterday. It is not known if the Redskins are one of those teams but you have to figure they have done their due diligence on Jackson. But the point is that there should be a reasonably healthy market at the inside linebacker position.
We know the Redskins have a high level of demand there with Fletcher retired, Riley on the free agent market, and the team having no viable starting options on the roster. They need to sign two starting caliber inside linebackers whether it’s Riley and someone else or two new players.
That leaves them in a weakened position in dealing with Riley. They may have to be willing to overpay to an extent to keep him so they don’t risk having to start all over in the heart of their defense.
But there is an upper limit to what they will pay. If another team thinks that Riley is worth an Ellerbe contract the Redskins could wish him well and move on to other options.