Washington’s location is welcome as the team has the talent any franchise would be delighted to have. But it’s still a challenge because, having spent the past four years issuing draft picks on defensive linemen in the first round, the team has to decide which parts to build and at what price.
These decisions will start this off-season. The first of these first-round players to take on Jonathan Allen on the defensive enters the final year of his contract. Washington also has until May 3 to claim Daron Payne’s option for the fifth year, estimated to be $ 8.49 million per over the cap, and the team likely will. The team seems to have time to make their remaining long-term decisions – Payne would be a free agent after 2022, and if their options are taken, Montez Sweat after 2023, and Chase Young after 2024 – but every move is connected.
“Do you want to pay for two edge rushers or do you want to keep the interior intact?” said Joel Corry, a former agent and expert on salary caps. “It all depends on what you value.”
All options remain on the table for Washington, which has plenty of room for salary caps. But ultimately, the team is unlikely to be able to keep all four of the top linemen beyond their rookie deals. This is where the money comes in. Most teams that pay a premium upfront had lines of defense with salary caps between $ 48 million and $ 54 million last season, according to Over the Cap. Some prioritized the interior (Los Angeles Rams), others the edge (Green Bay), and some were more evenly divided (Pittsburgh). However, given the current workforce, it is expected that Washington will spend money in this area at some point after the Linemen’s rookie contracts expire.
The question then arises, which one the team is trying to keep. The situation in Washington is difficult as the two edge rushers, the most expensive position in defense, are last available for contract renewals. Sweat and Young could each cost at least $ 20 million a year on long-term deals. If at some point the team expanded Sweat and Young, they could probably only afford a senior interior designer.
If Team Allen extended this off-season (not a certainty, but at 26, Allen is a prolific player who has overcome injury concerns to play in all but one game in the last three seasons), attention would be drawn to Direct Payne. Washington could wait at least a year before making a decision – and give the redesigned front office another full season to evaluate Payne, Sweat and Young. At this point, however, decision makers could face difficult challenges.
The 49ers faced a similar dilemma a year ago. In the final off-season, they effectively had to choose between a long-term contract with one of their defense attorneys: Arik Armstead, a freelance agent, or DeForest Buckner, who made his option for the fifth year. Edge rusher Nick Bosa came out of the Defensive Rookie of the Year season, so the team likely assumed they would have to pay a major contract extension for him in the future. The 49ers traded Buckner for Indianapolis and signed a contract worth $ 17 million a year.
Fortunately for Washington, it’s not quite in that position just yet.
“You shouldn’t have to take a desperate step,” said Brad Spielberger, a salary cap expert at Pro Football Focus. “You are still healthy and you have time.”
Spielberger believes Washington should pay Young and Sweat because not only are they talented, but Washington is deeper inside. He noted that picking one from Payne or Allen and launching it alongside backup linemen Tim Settle or Matt Ioannidis, who would still keep Washington strong in the middle, would be an affordable option. Settle and Ioannidis are two of the league’s better reserves, despite Ioannidis sustaining an end-of-season biceps injury in week 3 of last season.
Washington has the option to wait until the next off-season to fully solve the puzzle along the line. However, this off-season focus is on everyone. Washington could give him priority over Payne, and if they make serious efforts to re-sign him, the future is with him. He could take less money on a longer deal and anchor himself, or he could bet on himself and hope to make money with Washington or a free agency. For now, he’s the one watching.