Football Team

Why Leno Jr. re-signed with WFT instead of trying free agency

Football Team

Soon after learning he was about to secure the bag from the Washington Football Team in the form of a three-year contract extension, Charles Leno Jr. had to reach for the diaper bag, he explained on Friday.

"It felt good," Leno Jr. said about the negotiations coming to a close before remembering that he actually had to delay his celebration. "Well, it didn't feel that good. I think I had to go change a diaper right after that, so it wasn't the greatest moment."

Talk about being humbled.

Despite that brief distraction, the agreement between the franchise and the left tackle goes down as a victory for both sides.

By getting the deal done before the offseason commences, Ron Rivera and the front office have already checked off one key item on their to-do list and can proceed to focus on other guys whom they want to bring back. 

"Why not go ahead and take advantage of that opportunity?" Rivera said about the Leno Jr. move in his Friday press conference.

As for Leno Jr., the pact serves as validation for a player who was released by the Bears last May. While Chicago has the right to do business how it wants, dropping Leno Jr. well after the height of free agency put the veteran in an unfortunate spot. Luckily, Washington acquired him a couple of weeks later.

"You want to be with the team that wants you," Leno Jr. said. "This is the team that sought after me."

 

Leno Jr., who's extremely durable, well-regarded as a pass protector and still just 30 years old, would've surely had others interested in his services come March, but he bypassed that opportunity in order to stick with the Burgundy and Gold.

Aside from the money — even if he may not see it all, the extension carries a total value of $37.5 million — and the loyalty he felt for an organization that snagged him when his old one cut him, Leno Jr. chose to sign now because of where he thinks Washington is headed.

"I know there could've been options out there, but I took this one because I've got faith in the direction we're going," Leno Jr. said. "Faith is believing without seeing. It may look like this year was not the best year, but I definitely have faith in the direction we're going."

He then broke down why he has that trust and listed a couple of reasons for it while doing so.

"It starts with the head coach," Leno Jr. said. "The things he preaches every single day is basically control what you can control and that's something I firmly believe in."

"Also, just the pieces that we have, the roster that we have," he continued. "Not only with the talent that we have, but just the fight that our team shows. Those are traits, those are characteristics that you want in your team."

Leno Jr.'s fondest memories of the schedule including the lengthy game-ending drive Washington had to close out Tampa Bay as well as the clutch possessions the offense produced versus the Giants in Week 2 and the Raiders in Week 13. 

As for the team's overall attitude, he was impressed by those around him who refused to relent even as injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak halted what could've been a march toward the playoffs.

"There were so many opportunities to say, 'We're done,'" Leno Jr. said. "But nobody ever did that."

Clearly, Leno Jr. isn't done, either. Sunday's matchup with the Giants will mark his 110th consecutive start. And with his new contract, that streak will grow in 2022 when he suits up for Washington once more.

Until then, he'll probably have to deal with a few more diapers.