Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 26, 16 days before NFL free agency starts.
Up in the air—Offensive line
As free agency approaches, some players are locked in for 2018. We’re going to look at some others who have little certainty about where they will be playing when the coming season starts.
The swing tackle is slated to be a restricted free agent and his status has flown under the radar. If he doesn’t agree to an extension before free agency, the team will have to tender him at a level that would get them draft pick compensation if he leaves. That’s simple enough. The tough decision would be what level tender to extend to their backup tackle.
The low-level tender will come in at around $1.9 million. That would give the Redskins the right to match an offer sheet for Nsekhe. The money sounds about right for a backup tackle. But suppose a team sees Nsekhe as their starter at right tackle and offers him, say, two years at $5 million per with a good chunk guaranteed? Could the Redskins afford to match that for their backup?
Maybe they could try to get a draft pick if they choose not to match whatever Nsekhe might get offered. The lowest level to get draft-pick compensation is the second-round tender, which will cost about $2.9 million. That likely would make potential suitors steer clear but it’s pretty expensive for a reserve.
The best move for the Redskins would be to sign Nsekhe to an extension before they need to put a tag on him. A deal with some guaranteed money—the RFA tenders are not guaranteed—might get it done. But if Nsekhe, who turns 33 in October and may want to squeeze out some more money and a chance to start before he’s done, could look elsewhere.
This organization has been trending towards trying to keep its own draft picks in recent years. A big exception, of course, is the QB they drafted in 2012. Another exception appears to be Long, their third-round pick in 2014.
The word is that they will let Long, who started 13 games at left guard in 2015 and 18 games at center in 2016-2017, find a new home in free agency. There didn’t seem to be much dissatisfaction with his performance. Long wasn’t a candidate for the Pro Bowl or anything but his level of play was adequate.
It should be noted, however, that the only year that Long went into a season as the starter was last year. In 2015 he replaced the injured Shawn Lauvao and he again started the next year on the bench before center Kory Lichtensteiger was injured. He was the starting center throughout the 2017 offseason program and into the regular season until knee and quad injuries sent him to injured reserve.
The main concern might be how much it will cost to keep Long in Washington. They already are paying premium salaries to tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses. Brandon Scherff will soon be one of the top-paid guards in the league. The hot interior linemen on the free agency market will make in excess of $10 million per year. Long won’t be as coveted as Andrew Norwell and Josh Kline but his market may be strong enough to warrant something approaching $8 million per year. That’s enough to leave the Redskins in something of a cap bind along the O-line (especially if they have to pay Nsekhe more than they'd like to) and perhaps that is why they may look to the draft or a cheaper free agent to fill the left guard spot.
—NFL Combine (3/1) 3
—NFL Draft (4/26) 59
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 195