For 10 years, defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has been the centerpiece and most reliable member of the Redskins' defensive unit. He hadn't missed a game in his entire career up until week 12 of last season and had totaled at least 7.5 sacks in each season before dropping to 5.5 last year. Some may say Kerrigan has lost a few steps. Some may say he was held back by the previous defensive coordinator's schematics. One thing that can not be questioned is Kerrigan's desire to be a Washington Redskin. He has been very vocal about wanting to finish his career in the "burgundy and gold". What head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will have to determine is if there is a role for Kerrigan as they switch to the 4'3 defensive base alignment.
All signs point to Chase Young being the day 1 starter at the position, which would likely make Kerrigan a backup. The Skins weren't done addressing the defensive end position as they drafted James Smith-Williams out of North Carolina State in the 7th round. Kerrigan had to be left wondering "what does this mean for me". The Redskins have suddenly become deep on their front seven, particularly at defensive line, and they will have to decide how many linemen they plan on keeping on the roster. In the last two drafts alone, they have spent a first round pick on a defensive end, and even traded a second round pick in this year's draft to move up and select Montez Sweat in the 2019 draft. They have invested a lot into that position, and have focused on getting younger on defense as a whole. So where does that leave Ryan Kerrigan?
Kerrigan is in the final year of a 5 year 58 million dollar deal, and is scheduled to make 11.5 million this season. That's a heck of a lot of money to pay a 32 year old "backup" defensive end coming off an injury. As much as Kerrigan wants to be a part of the final roster in 2020 and for the remainder of his career, it would seem the most reasonable way for that to take place is if he restructured his deal for additional years and less money. Twelve million is just too much money to invest in a player who will not be playing every down and whose production is seemingly dropping off as he ages. Now, I definitely believe Kerrigan still has value especially with the Redskins getting away from the 3'4 base alignment. He can line up and rush from either defensive end position, and he can also line up as a defensive tackle and rush in the interior on passing downs. Kerrigan has proven he deserves an opportunity to make the Redskins' roster, but it honestly doesn't make sense or cents to keep him around if he is not going to be part of the defensive nucleus.
Ron Rivera has a lot of decisions to make across the board in regards to how many of each position he is going to keep, and the defensive line is definitely a position group to keep an eye on. In addition to Kerrigan, returning are Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Caleb Brantley, Tim Settles, Montez Sweat, and they have added Chase Young and James Smith-Williams to the mix. That's 9 defensive linemen off the break. You can only keep 53 total players on an NFL active roster. Something is going to have to give, and Kerrigan could be on the outside looking in if he is unwilling to restructure his contract.
A lot of fans may feel "oh, that's impossible...the Redskins would never cut Ryan Kerrigan". Don't be so sure. Kerrigan is going to have to come into camp in the best shape of his career, and show that he is still the 13 sack getting machine he was just a couple seasons ago. He also struggled with mental errors last season, which is inexcusable for a player of Ryan's caliber and experience. The "Showstopper" needs to make a lot of noise during camp to secure his spot because these youngsters are hungry and anxious to build their own legacy. They won't have any sympathy for Kerrigan if he doesn't come ready to compete. I don't believe that will be a problem though. Kerrigan has always been the ultimate leader and professional when it comes to preparation and being ready to compete.
Don't be surprised if in the coming weeks you hear that the Redskins are attempting to restructure Kerrigan's contract. He wants to be a Redskin and I believe the Redskins want him to finish his career there. The question is, at what price, because there is no way the Redskins can turn a blind eye to 12 million dollars when they have already invested so much into getting younger at the position. I felt the same way last season about Josh Norman's contract and how he should have been restructured or released before he was eligible for his roster bonus, but the Skins elected to keep him and it did not work in their favor. I don't believe this current coaching and front office regime will make the same mistakes, but we shall see. As you were...
Photo Credit: Keith Allison