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Redskins Option Decision on Robert Griffin III Could Depend on Draft Moves, Marcus Mariota

If the Redskins don't draft Marcus Mariota, will the team exercise RGIII's option?

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We've discussed the Redskins upcoming decision on Robert Griffin III's 5th year option several times already, and the general consensus among fans and most reporters has been that the team won't exercise it, instead letting Griffin play out his rookie deal and earn a new contract.  A small minority have pointed out that the risk to the team is less than people think, and it will secure the rights for a potential franchise QB.  The $16.155 million 5th option would also be several million less than the price tag of the franchise tag if Griffin performs well this year, but a long-term deal can't be worked out.

Mark Maske from the Washington Post offered up this little story from someone "familiar with the situation"

One person familiar with the situation said Wednesday he expects the Redskins to exercise Griffin's option year following the draft. But the team has not made that official and its first-year general manager, Scot McCloughan, has left open the possibility of using the fifth overall selection in the draft on Marcus Mariota if the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback remains available. That probably is a long shot. But such a move would make Mariota, not Griffin, the team's quarterback of the future.

The Redskins have flirted with the idea of drafting Marcus Mariota in public interviews by GM Scot McCloughan, and Head Coach Jay Gruden in the months leading up to this year's draft.  They made it clear that there are no plans to trade up for anyone in the first round, but the team is open to taking the best player available at any position, including quarterback.  This has generally been considered smoke to generate interest and help a defensive player they want fall in the draft.

The NFL Draft ends on May 2nd, and the Redskins have until the following day to make a decision on Griffin's option.  They could draft a QB this year, but if it is not one of the top two, it will likely not have any affect on their decision.  There is a huge dropoff in talent from Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, to the next tier of QBs(Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, Garrett Grayson, Sean Mannion).  Winston has been a near-lock to go #1 for months, and Mariota is expected to go #2, whether to the Titans or whoever they trade with.  The decision will be based on the Redskins risk/reward assessment for RGIII, and it still looks like they will pass, but anything is possible.

Griffin recently talked to NFL.com's Jeff Darlington about the possibility of the Redskins drafting a QB this year:

First, Griffin gets no sense that McCloughan plans to draft a new quarterback with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft next week. If Jameis Winston slides to five in some wildly unrealistic scenario, perhaps that will change things. But Griffin says McCloughan told him, "I'm going to put the 10 best players around you to maximize your potential." This meshes with what sources have said about Washington's plans leading up to the draft: Marcus Mariota, for instance, is not a likely target at this point.

And if the Redskins do draft a quarterback? "I'll respect the decision since it means they believe it'll make the team better -- and I'll welcome the competition."

And about the upcoming decision on his 5th year option:

Would he be upset if Washington doesn't pick up the 2016 option by May 3?

"I wouldn't be bummed," Griffin said. "Either way, we're going out there to prove it this upcoming year -- not next year. I just want to win. I want to win games and have fun doing it. The rest will take care of itself. They can pick up the option -- or they can decide not to pick up the option. It'll work out either way. I'm focused on this year."

[UPDATE: 4/23/15, 8:45 am] John Keim adds thoughts from Jon Gruden on Mariota, and more speculation that the Redskins will wait until the draft is over to decide on the option.

Of course, Jon Gruden has been known to fall in love with a quarterback (or three). It only matters what his brother, and general manager Scot McCloughan, think of Mariota. But we already know there is a split on starter Robert Griffin III. And we know that the Redskins have yet to pick up his fifth-year option. If it's such a no-brainer, it would have been done by now. Based on multiple people I've spoken to involved in the sport, it seems they are waiting to see what happens in the draft. And, if they have to trade him, they would want to leave the decision on the fifth-year option up to his new team. Another thought is that they wanted to see how he was upon returning for offseason workouts -- were there any changes in his game, physically or mentally?