One of the big challenges that the Washington Football Team will face in the coming seasons is how to keep its impressive defensive line together. The eventual cost of paying market value to 4 consecutive first-round picks is threatens to become too much to bear for a single unit.
However, the team took the first step in the process today by signing defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, drafted 17th overall in 2017, to a 4-year, $72m extension that will keep him in Washington through 2025, when he will be 30 years old.
This is a huge win for Ron Rivera, the franchise and its fans. Too often over the past decade, the team has failed to secure second contracts with its own home-grown star players. The highest profile departure was quarterback Kirk Cousins, but others like Bashaud Breeland, Trent Murphy, Preston Smith and Jamison Crowder have left the team that drafted them and gone on to play well somewhere else. With the failure to secure Brandon Scherff to a long-term contract before the July 15th deadline on his franchise tag earlier this month, it would have been very disappointing if the Football Team had failed to secure Allen as well, who had said previously that he hoped to get a deal done prior to the start of training camp.
They don't come any more "home grown" than Jonathan Allen, who quite literally went to high school in Ashburn, just minutes away from the team's headquarters.
Fans should be thrilled with the deal, which is not only long term, but overall quite cap-friendly. Allen was already due $10m for the 2021 season; by adding this four-year extension, Washington will have Allen on the roster for 5 years at a cost of $82m, which is an annual average of $16.4m. This is at the low edge of what a player like Jonathan Allen could demand in today's market, though the $18m value on the extension puts it squarely in the middle of that range.
While defensive tackle is not a "sexy" position, it is, of course, extremely important to the success of the team, and it lies at the heart of whatever success is in store for Washington this year. Jonathan Allen is not just a very good player on the field, but one of the team's key leaders in the locker room; coach Ron Rivera has consistently praised Allen for his leadership and professionalism. With the departure of longtime veteran Ryan Kerrigan to the division-rival Eagles, Allen's leadership figures to be even more important moving forward. He sets the standard for his teammates on the field. Fans should hope that those teammates will follow his example when it comes time to extend their contracts.
While Jonathan Allen is the first of Washington's four 1st round picks to be extended, he is not the first player in the talented interior defensive line group. Matt Ioannidis, the team's 5th round draft pick out of Temple in 2016, is currently in the second year of a 3-year extension. The next key defensive lineman that the team will want to keep in the fold is Tim Settle, another 5th-round selection, this time from Virginia Tech. Settle is in the final year of his rookie contract, and will be a free agent at the end of the '21 season. Settle has played extremely well, and Washington fans would love to see the former Hokie stay with the team for his entire career, but it may be harder to convince Settle to stay, as he sees limited snaps as the 4th man in a group that features Ioannidis, Allen and Daron Payne. Tim Settle may well go in search of a team that will give him the chance to start and play 800+ snaps per season when he gets the chance in next year's free agency.
For now, though, the signing of Jonathan Allen adds to the celebratory feeling just a day before the beginning of Training Camp. Allen has 17 sacks, 45 QB hits and 202 tackles (21 for loss) through four seasons with Washington, and has started all but one game over the past three seasons. His consistent leadership and on-field demeanor make him a tremendous asset to the team, and knowing that he will be around for the next five seasons should make the fan base happy, and help defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio sleep well at night.
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