In the last decade, no Redskins player performed better than Ryan Kerrigan. Incredibly, he started the first 139 straight games of his career, a run of more than eight years without missing a game, and posted double-digit sacks in four of the last six seasons.
Kerrigan has been dependable and productive in a fashion that no Redskins player has demonstrated in a long time. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and in those three years, he totaled 37 sacks.
Looking at 2020 and a new era of Redskins football, however, and questions arise about Kerrigan's future.
New Washington head coach Ron Rivera was presented a roster chock full of problems, and that allowed the coach to already make some easy decisions. Releasing Josh Norman and Paul Richardson was easy; those two moves saved the team nearly $15 million and cost the Redskins little on-field production.
That's not the case with Kerrigan.
Sure, he has a high price tag in 2020 with a cap number of nearly $12 million, none of which is guaranteed. And yes, Kerrigan is coming off the least productive season of his career and for the first time ever missed games to injuries. He will also turn 32 in August.
Considering the above case against Kerrigan, and that Washington overhauled its coaching staff and front office already this offseason, releasing the veteran pass rusher could make sense. It would free up a lot of cash on the salary cap and give a veteran player a chance to catch on with a contender.
Don't expect that though.
There is a multitude of reasons to expect Kerrigan to stay in Washington, but the most important is that he has publicly talked about a willingness to work out a contract extension (see video above). If the Redskins can add a year onto his deal, that would allow for immediate cap relief by spreading his money between the next two seasons. In many ways, that seems like the most likely option.
Kerrigan is well-liked by everyone in the Redskins organization, including ownership, and is just one sack away from the franchise sack record. That might not mean much to some fans, but there is value in a distinguished player going his whole career for one team.
There's also this and it's important: Kerrigan could thrive in 2020.
For the past few seasons, the Redskins 3-4 defensive scheme consistently asked its pass rushers to drop into coverage far too frequently. It was a bad plan, and players knew it. New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has openly discussed that he wants his pass rushers to focus on getting to the quarterback. It's an incredibly simple yet smart strategy, and that could help Kerrigan significantly.
Consider what happened with former Redskins outside linebacker Preston Smith. In four years in Washington, Smith never got to double-digit sacks. His last year with the Redskins, 2018, was the worst of his career. He finished with just four sacks. This year playing in Green Bay, Smith registered 12 sacks and got to show his size, speed, and athleticism as a disruptive force.
Kerrigan doesn't have Smith's athleticism, but he has more strength and could see a similar jolt by playing in a revamped defense.
There is the issue of the second overall pick that Washington holds. Assuming the team doesn't trade the pick, the Redskins will take Ohio State defensive end Chase Young. Paired with 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat, Del Rio would have some elite speed off the edge.
Would Kerrigan lose reps in that scenario? More than likely.
Can a team have too many pass rushers? Absolutely not.
Kerrigan would provide different looks than Young or Sweat for opposing offenses when on the field, and has the strength to play in run situations as well. He could also serve as a role model for both young players in how to prepare and take care of your body over the course of a 16-game season.
If a release seems unlikely and an extension might make sense, the trade option just exists. It's hard to know what the market would be for Kerrigan right now, as he only has one year left on his contract.
Keep in mind, however, that Kerrigan has been extremely productive in Washington for the last five seasons playing on some bad defenses. It's entirely possible, if not probable, he can deliver more double-digit sacks playing on an improved defense with a better scheme.
What is certain in all of this?
Rivera would love to have Kerrigan from a culture standpoint. He won't miss any voluntary sessions and he will work hard every day. There's nine years of data, on-field and off, to support the theory that Kerrigan is the type of player all coaches love to have on their team. And that will matter too.
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