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The 5 O'Clock Club: the Zach Brown conundrum

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v Seattle Seahawk Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Rich Tandler wrote a useful article this week

http://www.nbcsports.com/washington/redskins/heres-one-possible-reason-why-redskins-and-brown-havent-agreed-extension

So why don’t the Redskins go ahead and lock him up for the next few years? They may not have the immediate cash they need to do that.

Per the NFLPA public report, the Redskins have just $1.75 million in salary cap space remaining for 2017. Earlier this year it looked like they would have closer to $4 million or $5 million available in December. But that was before a staggering 15 players headed to injured reserve. The Redskins must continue to pay the salaries of those players and of the players who replaced them on the roster. That has cut into their cushion considerably.

They are likely to cross the finish line on the last day of the season on fumes; they could be looking for loose change in the couch cushions at Redskins Park to get through Week 17. That likely doesn’t leave them with enough money to entice Brown to skip free agency next March and stay in Washington.

The Redskins have added three more players to the injured reserve list this week (including Jordan Reed) making the number of names on the IR list even more staggering.

Injured Reserve impact

So just how much cap space is locked up in IR at the moment? According to OverTheCap, the number was $25.7m. Jordan Reed will add $5.7m to that number, bringing the total to around $31.5m:

For comparison, the Giants — generally identified as being the ‘most injured’ team in the NFL in 2017 — have almost $40m on IR, and about $3m in cap space (according to OTC).

The Eagles have around $15m on IR ($11m for Jason Peters & Darren Sproles), and $2.5m in cap space. (You can add Carson Wentz to the butcher’s bill for the Eagles this week).

The Cowboys have around $4.2m on IR, and roughly $10m in cap space.

How realistic is that $5 to $7m per year figure that Tandler suggested for Zach Brown salary cap hit?

What does the market look like for inside linebackers/traditional linebackers? Is $5m to $7m really the right range for Zach Brown and his production?

Inside the NFC East, I see Mychal Kendricks and Sean Lee in this price range. Let’s consider how Zach Brown compared to these two guys through the first 12 weeks of the season.

  • Zach Brown is the leading tackler in the NFL. Brown has 117 tackles (79 solo) and 2.5 sacks.
  • Mychal Kendricks has 63 tackles (44 solo) and 2 sacks.

When it comes to team impact, Sean Lee is one of the most impactful players for the Cowboys, and is similar to guys like Luke Kuechly in terms of the way he can lift the entire defense. From this standpoint, he may be a bit better than Brown. But we all know the saying: The best ability is availability.

  • Sean Lee played 377 snaps for the Cowboys in 12 weeks of 2017. He appeared in 7 games, and managed to play over 90% of the defensive snaps 5 times.
  • Zach Brown has played 777 snaps for the Redskins in the same 12 weeks. He has appeared in all 12 games and has never been on the field for less than 91% of the defensive snaps. He played 100% of the defensive snaps in 7 games.

I’d find it hard to argue that Zach Brown isn’t worth $7m per year to the Redskins based on a comparison to other team’s linebackers.

Where would $7m per year place him on the Redskins roster?

A quick check of OTC shows that — with no quarterback at the top of the chart for 2018 — Zach Brown would end up as the 5th biggest cap hit at $7m or the 6th biggest at $6m. Obviously, if the Redskins sign a veteran quarterback ahead of next season, there would be a new name in the #1 position on the chart shown here:

I think it’s easy to argue that Brown is more impactful than the McTwins, who have cap hits of around $4.8m each. Brown is a starter, and younger than Vernon Davis, so it’s reasonable to be above the veteran TE. Grouping him with Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff, and below Jordan Reed doesn’t feel, in my opinion, like a contract that’s ‘too rich’.

I’m willing to accept Tandler’s assertion about Zach Brown’s worth, with the caveat that he is 28 years old, and likely to see a fall off in production in the coming seasons. In fact, I’d feel comfortable with the argument that he should be paid at the top of that range ($7m per year).

So, we’re back to the conundrum — the Redskins want to sign Zach Brown, but they don’t have any 2017 cap space. How can they get it done?

Poll

What do you think about Zach Brown?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    He’s an elite linebacker in the NFL and worth more than $7m per year. If Bobby Wagner, Luke Kuechly and Mark Barron are making $9-$12m per year, then that’s where Zach Brown should be too.
    (64 votes)
  • 68%
    $7m sounds about right. The Redskins should find a way to get it done.
    (304 votes)
  • 4%
    I like Brown, but he’s not worth $7m per year; especially if the Redskins have to get ‘creative’ to pay him. Let him test free agency.
    (22 votes)
  • 9%
    I’m less worried about the APY than I am about the guaranteed money and the length of contract. The Skins should be able to cut him after 2 years without a big dead cap hit.
    (43 votes)
  • 2%
    Brown isn’t a key to the Redskins success. Just draft a young stud LB to replace him and let him walk if he doesn’t want to play here.
    (10 votes)
443 votes total Vote Now