Washington announced today that they have picked up the 5th year option on quarterback Robert Griffin. There had been some debate on the merits of picking up the option for RGIII given his injury history (the option is guaranteed for injury) and lack of progression the last two seasons (he has been benched twice). The option is worth $16.155 million and will become fully guaranteed if RGIII is on the roster at the start of free agency next year.
Washington could have chosen to let the season play out and if RGIII played well enough used the franchise tag on him. That would have relieved the Redskins of any financial responsibility in the event of an injury that would have pushed into the 2016 League Year and prevented his release. It would, however, cost a few million more and leave open the possibility of another team signing him in free agency. The exclusive franchise tag could prevent him from hitting free agency, but that figure could have been in the $25 million range, which really isn’t an option.
The tag applied to RGIII and a few other players this year might bring up an interest scenario for certain teams next season. If Washington finds themselves out of the playoff race and Griffin continues to be, at best, mediocre, is it in the better long term interest of the team to pull the player to prevent the possibility of injury? Significant injuries suffered late in the season would almost certainly shelve a player through the start of free agency and protect his salary.
Griffin’s cap number for 2016 currently ranks tied for 13th in the NFL with Andrew Luck. Ryan Tannehill should also join that group next season. The only veteran starters with a lower salary cap figure would be Tom Brady ($15M), and Andy Dalton ($13.1M), so in that respect its affordable if the player merits a future extension. If Griffin fails odds are his salary projections would nosedive in to the $5M range alongside reclamation projects like Mark Sanchez, so in that respect this is a gamble if injuries cause his salary to become guaranteed.