Zach Brown plays football with elite speed, but that doesn't mean his contract situation will be resolved at the same pace.
The Redskins are in ongoing talks with Brown's agents, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, a source confirmed with NBC Sports Washington over the weekend.
That comes just a week after Washington head coach Jay Gruden said at the Senior Bowl that Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaffer was talking with Brown's representatives about a new contract (see video above).
Two important things for Redskins fans to remember as the contract dance continues:
- Free agency doesn't officially open until March 14, and the tampering window doesn't open until March 12. That means the Redskins have exclusive negotiating rights with Brown for six more weeks.
- Even as Schaffer talks with the Katz brothers, it remains entirely possible Brown will hit free agency.
Like most negotiations, the biggest hurdle in getting a deal done with Brown will be money. He was a good fit for the Redskins defense and played particularly well early in the 2017 season before key injuries to players like Mason Foster and Jonathan Allen.
Brown is a tackling machine, stout against the run, and the Redskins know what he brings to the defense.
The money, though, will be the driver.
Top interior linebackers don't get paid as much as pass rushing linebackers; that's just a fact of the NFL marketplace.
Much like the Kirk Cousins contract talks, the annual salary is less important than guaranteed money. For Brown, the number to watch will be $20 million in guaranteed money.
Perhaps the Redskins could approach that figure creatively.
Maybe a four-year deal worth $6.5 million per season, with three of those years guaranteed? That would get Brown to $19.5 million guaranteed on a modest, team friendly annual salary.
The linebacker will turn 29 this October, so maybe the Redskins want fewer years guaranteed. Fine, perhaps a three-year deal at $8.5 million per season, with the first two years guaranteed and attainable incentives thrown in? Certainly seems doable for a player that led the NFL in tackles for the bulk of the 2017 season.
The point here is Schaffer can go a number of different ways to get at, near or above the $20 million guaranteed baseline that most expect Brown wants.
Tangentially, the Redskins agreeing to a new contract with Mason Foster last week should be good news for Brown. Washington entered the offseason with more than $50 million in salary cap space, and Foster's $2 million base salary won't make a dramatic impact.
What happens with Kirk Cousins could be another story. If the Redskins actually put a third franchise tag on Cousins at $34 million, that would hamstring the club financially, and that could impact Brown.
It's too early to tell what, if any, Cousins' impact will have on the rest of the Redskins offseason moves.
Just like it's too early to tell what, exactly, will happen between the Redskins and Zach Brown.
The two sides are talking, which is good news, and have plenty of time left to reach a deal. It also remains possible Brown will hit the free agent market in March.
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