I recently posted an article asking fans to rank NFC East edge rushers, and while there was a lot of discussion about Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, most of the other comments about the Redskins pass rush revolved around Junior Galette, who is no longer with the team. I realized that most people haven’t thought much about the man who took Junior’s spot on the Redskin defense: Pernell McPhee.
Let me start this introduction of Pernell McPhee by reprinting the free agency profile I prepared back in early March, just prior to free agency:
Pernell McPhee, Bears, Ravens
Weight: 269 pounds
Entry to NFL: 5th round, 2011, (Baltimore Ravens)
Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, the first big free agent signed by Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace in 2015, and safety Quintin Demps were released by the team on Monday.
McPhee, 29, was scheduled to earn a base salary of $7.2 million in 2018, which was too high for a player with only 14 sacks over three seasons in Chicago. By releasing him, the Bears will open up $7.075 million in salary-cap space.
McPhee played extremely hard on defense, and he was also a forceful and entertaining presence in the locker room. However, he missed 12 games with a variety of ailments, including chronic knee issues, since joining the Bears. He was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 21 after trying to battle through a shoulder injury.
Injured and unproductive, McPhee was released by the Bears this week, opening the opportunity for him to catch one with another team. The Bears didn’t think he was worth $7m per season. He’s going to find it hard to score big as a 29 year old taking his 2nd run at free agency. The bottom of the market for veteran edge rushers is around $3.5m, so let’s assume his range is probably $3.5-5m, and that McPhee is likely to get only a one-year or two-year contract with low guarantees and heavy on incentives.
How would he fit with the Redskins?
McPhee would be similar to the McTwins signed last year — a veteran player brought in as a relatively low-cost rotational player. I actually think he might fit well with the Redskins, though I imagine the fan base wouldn’t be enamored with the signing. He has the same kind of flexibility that Trent Murphy offers to play as an edge rusher or with his hand in the dirt like a DE, and the Redskins are always looking for flexibility across the defensive front seven.
Here’s a profile from 2015 when McPhee had finished his rookie contract with the Ravens, before he signed with the Bears:
McPhee was a fifth round pick for the Baltimore Ravens out of Mississippi State in 2011. At 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds he could have potentially filled the role of a situational inside pass rusher or bulked up to play 3-4 end. He ended up providing them with a balance of both roles. He played with his hand on the ground for most of his first two years, lining up at end and tackle in 4-3 looks and also lining up as an end in 3-4 looks. He finished his rookie year with a +20.8 overall grade including a +20.5 pass rushing mark. McPhee also led all interior lineman with a 9.2 Pass Rush Productivity rating.
This past season  was McPhee’s breakout year, a year in which he was able to rank second out of all 3-4 outside linebackers with a +26.0 overall grade (and +28.4 including the playoffs), even though his 540 total snaps were half as many as some of his counterparts. His pass rushing grade of +23.1 ranked him third behind only Justin Houston and teammate Elvis Dumervil, and he managed a solid +3.2 grade against the run.
He not only provides value as an edge rusher but can also do damage from inside. He could fit with either a 4-3 scheme or a 3-4 scheme. The best fit for him would be with a team that embraces his versatility (like the Ravens did) and that shows the willingness and creativity to move him around and maximize his pass rushing ability. Expect McPhee to garner plenty of interest if he hits the open market.
Personally, I wouldn’t object to McPhee as a low-cost signing, and he would fit in as a front-7 McTriplet, along with McClain (if he’s not cut) and McGee.
The Redskins signed McPhee to a one-year, $1.7m contract with
no $350,000 in guaranteed money. This is a no low-risk move by the Redskins to acquire a player that they badly needed — a rotational pass rusher who can put his hand in the dirt and be disruptive.
What will he bring to the Redskins?
With Ryan Anderson still unproven, McPhee gives the Redskins a proven veteran backup to Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, and one who has some positional flexibility — something that has premium value in the Redskins defense.
I’m also intrigued by the report that described him as “a forceful and entertaining presence in the locker room.” More and more, the Redskins coaches and front office seem to be valuing players who are good teammates and leaders.
Pernell McPhee played 16 games in 3 of his first four seasons in the league, accumulating 15.5 sacks in those three seasons.
With the Bears, he put up 14 sacks in 3 seasons, despite losing 12 total games to injuries in Chicago. He was cut by the Bears for two reasons; first, his overall production didn’t warrant his $7m contract, and second, there was a new front office group who had no vested interest in McPhee.
Personally, I think the Redskins made a very good decision in bringing in the 29 year-old, who seems to still be very productive, albeit not looking like a full-time starter at this stage of his career.
Pernell McPhee looks like the right combination of skill and salary, giving the ‘Skins a rotational pass rusher to spell Kerrigan and Smith. There shouldn’t be a lot of pressure on Ryan Anderson this year — McPhee’s presence should allow the former Crimson Tide linebacker to continue his development behind three veterans.
If Pernell McPhee plays well, the Redskins can bring him back in 2019; if he proves to be ineffective or injury-prone, it won’t have cost much to find out.
A detailed, 15 minute film breakdown of Pernell McPhee done in 2016
How do you feel about having Pernell McPhee on the Redskins in 2018?
This poll is closed
Excellent value; really good offseason move by the front office
Yeah... it’s okay
Pffft! Wasted salary cap space