The Washington Redskins announced earlier today that they have exercised the fifth-year option on OLB Ryan Kerrigan, giving the team exclusive rights to the player through the 2015 season.
The fifth-year option is a new feature, inaugurated with the 2011 NFL collective bargaining agreement. It allows teams to exercise an option to retain rights to a player selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft and every draft after that. It does not apply to any player selected after the first round or before 2011. The deadline for the Redskins to exercise Kerrigan’s fifth-year option is Saturday.
Kerrigan, taken with the 16th overall pick — after the Redskins traded down from the 10th spot with the Jacksonville Jaguars — has been a steady and solid addition to the defense, though no one would call him a true star. He’s made some big plays, such as interceptions and touchdown returns, but he lacks the top-end speed-to-power ability that you see in the very best pass-rushers.
However, Kerrigan is a very reliable player, having never missed a game in his first three seasons. In fact, Kerrigan almost never misses a player. He was in for every single defensive snap of his rookie season in 2011, missed only seven plays in 2012 and played in 95 percent of all snaps in 2013.
Kerrigan’s numbers have also been steady, with 7.5 sacks his rookie season and 8.5 sacks in 2012 and 2013. That’s 24.5 sacks for his entire career. He had a career-high 66 tackles in 2013 and forced four fumbles. He returned interceptions for touchdowns in 2011 and 2012, but did not pick off a single pass in 2013.
The Redskins face a major decision on the other side of their 3-4 linebacking corps, with fellow OLB Brian Orakpo, a 2009 first round draft pick, currently carrying the franchise tag for 2014. The Redskins have until July 15 to reach a contract agreement with Orakpo or he will play with the franchise tag in 2014. The Redskins could franchise Orakpo again in 2015 [but not after that], but his salary would balloon to 20 percent higher than it is this year, making him practically unaffordable.
There are some who believe the Redskins cannot afford to keep both Orakpo and Kerrigan, though that remains to be seen.