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Commanders Reacts Survey: Looking ahead to options and extensions for Washington’s young defensive players

Poll Questions!!!

NFL: SEP 13 Eagles at Washington Football Team Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Washington Commanders fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate in regular email surveys.

The Reacts survey is back on Hogs Haven!

While the focus of most of the NFL is on free agency this week, Hogs Haven wants to look ahead — beyond this week and beyond the draft to ask what the front office should be doing with three key young defensive stars for the Washington Commanders.

Chase Young’s 5th year option

First, we ask whether the Commanders should use the 5th year option on Chase Young.

Per USA Today, the 5th year option amount for Young would cost $17.5m. For comparison, the franchise tag amount for defensive ends is $19.7m this year.

The cases for and against the Commanders using the option are complicated by Young’s inconsistent performance in 2021 and 2022, before and after his severe ACL injury. He has not really repeated his strong Defensive Rookie of the Year performance from 2020, but Washington drafted him 2nd overall because the franchise envisioned him to be a player that could be the central pillar of the defense for a decade or more. If Washington fails to exercise the 5th year option now, it could be seen as a lack of commitment to the player, and, with free agency looming in 2024, the team could be forced to rely on the franchise tag to keep him in the fold, which would be more expensive in ‘24 and would, in effect, potentially cost the team a year of control.

If Washington does exercise the option, it is fully guaranteed, so, if Chase Young fails to return to his rookie year form, it could prove to be an expensive, though short-term mistake.

If he does return to form and develops into the All Pro that the team envisaged when he was drafted, then the extra year of control on the prescribed cost would be an advantage.

Sweat, Young, Curl- who gets the first extension?

Chase Young will be a free agent in 2024 if his option is not extended, or 2025 if it is. The team, of course, has the option of signing him to a long-term contract at any time before he becomes a free agent.

Montez Sweat is playing on his 5th year option ($11.5m) in 2023.

Safety Kamren Curl has 3 accrued seasons, and is now eligible for an extension, should the Commanders wish to offer one. His 4th year salary is higher than normal for his draft position because he qualified for the Proven Performance Escalator; he counts $3m towards the salary cap in ‘23.

Any of these three young defensive players can be offered an extension by the team at any time. The risk of offering a contract too soon is that the team mis-values the player, and ends up overpaying on a big contract that they didn’t actually have to offer. The risk of waiting too long is that the player simply keeps on improving, and the cost of his eventual extension simply becomes more expensive.

No shortage of talent to be rewarded

Complicating things is the conundrum that Washington faces in trying to keep all of its talented young players — there may be too many of them. The team has, in the past three years, given high-dollare extensions to Jonathan Allen, Terry McLaurin, and — this week — Daron Payne. At some point, the team will exhaust its salary cap and be unable to reward everyone, leading to tough choices that involve individual players, position groups and long-term strategies.

Last season, the team struggled with cap issues because of Carson Wentz’s salary cap hit. With Wentz gone, the team was able to take care of Daron Payne, but how long will the Commanders be able to ride with its all-first-round defensive line while paying relative peanuts at the QB position?

The decisions won’t stop. Jamin Davis will be next. And then, before you know it, Jahan Dotson will be looking for a payday.

So, put on your thinking cap and answer these highly strategic poll questions.