The Redskins will face some tough decisions during the next 10 months as two key contributors enter the final year of their rookie contracts. Other players will be in the last year of their deal as well, but nobody that will command the attention, and potentially the free agent dollars, of Preston Smith and Jamison Crowder.
Both drafted in 2015, Smith and Crowder will be looking for the lucrative, and for many players elusive, second contract. Smith will drive a much higher price than Crowder, as pass rushers command more cash than slot receivers.
So, the Redskins will have decisions to make. Let's break those decisions down and look at other members of the team, too.
In three seasons with the Redskins, Smith has 20.5 sacks, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. Though he hasn't posted a double digit sack season yet, Smith also hasn't missed a single game in three years. That durability, and flashes of explosive atheltic ability, will land Smith an average salary in the eight figures range. Here's Rich Tandler's salary estimate.
In three seasons with the Redskins, Crowder has more than 2,200 receiving yards and 12 TDs. While he led Washington with nearly 800 receiving yards last season, it was actually a slight step backward from a stellar 2016 campaign where Crowder had about 850 yards and seven TDs.
Crowder has value for Washington; he knows the system well and head coach Jay Gruden trusts him. Crowder also has strong footwork and route-running skills, a must to play in the slot. How much does a slot WR cost, though? Well, prior to this offseason the answer wasn't all that much, but then Cleveland signed Jarvis Landry to a $75 million contract. Crowder won't command that, but he's going to get paid. Just not like Smith, his draft classmate.
Lanier will be a restricted free agent in 2019 and Washington would be crazy not to tender him. He notched five sacks in 2017 and should continue to emerge as an interior pass rush threat. The Redskins will have a decision to make with Lanier, but the contract structure likely means it will come in 2020.
The backup quarterback that everyone on the team likes, it would not be a surprise if McCoy heads elsewhere in 2019.
Certainly, McCoy wants an opportunity to play and if that doesn't emerge, he might prefer to find a new situation with more competition. After the 'Skins traded for Alex Smith and signed the QB to a contract extension, there won't be competition in D.C. anytime soon. Yet Jay Gruden truly appreciates having McCoy on his team, and that could maybe be enough to keep the former Texas star around in 2019 and beyond.
This is an interesting one. Nsekhe proved quite capable as a swing tackle, backing up Trent Williams and Morgan Moses. But now he's coming off surgery and there is some talk about converting the 6-foot-8 32-year-old inside to left guard. If that happens and it goes well, Washington might try to keep Nsekhe in 2019 and beyond. If not, the team likely drafted his replacement with third-round pick Geron Christian.
The bottom line
The Redskins have proven during the last five years that when the team wants to keep a player, it generally happens before free agency. Consider contract extensions for Morgan Moses, Chris Thompson and Quinton Dunbar as the latest examples, but Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan fit the same mold. Even the trade that acquired Alex Smith came with a contract extension for the QB.
Knowing that tendency, it will be interesting if any talks between the Redskins and either Crowder or Smith emerge this summer and into the fall. For Smith, pursuing free agency will carry a huge payday, particularly if he can break through into the double digit sack club this year. Crowder, meanwhile, would be open to talking with the team about an extension, a source told NBC Sports Washington back in December.
Other players face expiring contracts — guys like Ziggy Hood, Martrell Spaight and Rob Kelley, who'll be a restricted free agent. It's tough to know their market now, at least until seeing more from the Redskins in camp.
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