The Washington Redskins have benched Robert Griffin III, which likely indicates the end of the road for Griffin with the Redskins organization. Let’s look at the financials of his contract, what might happen in the future with him, and what a mess it was that got them to this point.
Releasing Griffin is not going to be a popular option for Washington next season due to the guarantees in his contract. Griffin was lucky enough to be drafted in the 2012 season when the concept of “no offsets” became a big clause in highly drafted rookie contracts. What that means is if the Redskins were to release Griffin, he would collect money from the Redskins and whatever other team in the NFL sign him. His fully guaranteed salary is $3,269,877 in 2015. That makes the Redskins preferred option is the trade of Griffin where the guaranteed salary will transfer to the new team and thus save the Redskins a $3 million charge.
Finding a trade partner might not be the easiest thing for Washington. It is already a given they will not get value for RGIII. Not only does he look like a broken QB, but he only has one more season under contract. A team can exercise an option for 2016, but the cost of that option is the cost of the 2015 Transition tag for QBs, which will likely be in excess of $15 million. A team only has until May 3 of 2015 to exercise the option and while it is only initially guaranteed for injury, Griffin’s injury history will likely make the price too steep.
So any team trading for him will almost certainly look at this as a one year marriage and not pick up the option. That means you need to have the confidence that your organization can spend the time “fixing” him and signing him long term to a reasonable contract if you do fix him. When Mark Sanchez was released by the Jets this season he found lukewarm interest in free agency, eventually settling for a low guarantee/cost contract from the Eagles who were willing to take that chance due to his potential upside. His most likely destination would be to a team with no quarterback that may not have the potential to draft one this season. Teams like the Jets, Rams, and Texans would be the most likely fits to take a one year flier on him. You might throw the Vikings and even Eagles into that mix, though I cant see another Washington/Philadelphia trade occuring.
Washington has come under a great deal of scrutiny for this decision. A number of people believe you should make him play through this and force him to learn while others realize he wasn’t playing at an NFL level and needed to be benched. The Redskins needed to make this move for the future of their team, as crazy as it sounds. They have 52 other players on that team to consider and the way Griffin acted at times after these games he likely alienated every one of them. It is one thing to believe in a young, potential superstar, but its another to have a failing player bring down a whole organization.
Playing him at this point was not going to help or hurt his trade value, but the threat of injury was real and that would destroy any trade value which made this move a must in my opinion. His lack of awareness was startling last week and there is almost no chance his body would hold up to that beating again. To get anything for him he has to be healthy and this is the only way to accomplish this.
Thats not to say Washington has handled him well. They are the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL and everything they did with him just added to the mess. The Redskins gave him the keys to the kingdom before he really ever took a snap in the NFL. Head coach Mike Shanahan tailored an offense to his skillset in 2012 and Griffin exceeded all expectations as he was clearly the most successful of the top QB’s drafted that season. But success seemed to go to his head and the Redskins protection of him just fed into that. Shanahan had a similar issue with Jay Cutler in Denver where his constant praise just added to an attitude that still follows Cutler to this day.
RGIII was injured and had a falling out with Shanahan that offseason. Washington’s handling of the QB at that point was ridiculous. Because of his shortcomings in running a pro style offense he needed a real offseason of work to continue to grow in 2013. The injury made that impossible, at least from a physical standpoint. They still decided he should be the starter at the opening of the regular season, a decision that seemed to come from the owner. Griffin didn’t look healthy and regressed, falling far behind fellow draft mate Andrew Luck who improved tremendously in year 2. Eventually RGIII got the coach fired.
Under new coach Jay Gruden, RGIII looked even more unprepared than he did under Shanahan. He looked terrible and these last few weeks looked as if he was mentally checking out of the games. His coach undressed him in a press conference after Griffin ripped the effort level of his team, in a bizarre scene that showed how far this rift had gotten. Gruden made a stand and had to have ownerships back at this point to keep the other 52 guys focused on a future that would include the coach but not the QB.
The trade for RGIII will likely go down as one of the worst draft trades in the NFL. Though I do think a fair argument could be made for the Rams not trading away that pick the fact was they fleeced the Redskins in terms of value. The trade illustrates the premium that teams put on the QB position as no other recent trades have come close to that kind of one sided nature. RGIII has now failed with two coaches, both of whom could not stand him by the end of the season, and rubbed most of his teammates the wrong way. Its a disaster. In the end the Redskins paid a huge price, got one playoff game, and two years of headaches and drama because of it.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.