The most recent SBNation “Reacts” poll results are in for the Commanders and they have interesting implications for the way the team sets up for free agency in the 2024 offseason.
After 2023, three of Washington’s key defenders will potentially be eligible for free agency. Defensive end Montez Sweat will be at the end of his rookie contract, having played out his 5th year option during the 2023 season. Safety Kam Curl, drafted a year later than Sweat, but at the end of his 4-year rookie contract, will also be eligible to test the market. Finally, defensive end Chase Young may be a free agent, depending on whether the team picks up his fifth year option. At this point, Washington has until May 1, 2023 to decide on whether or not to do so.
A slight majority of those voting were interested in seeing Young’s option exercised. Presumably, at least some of those fans interested in seeing the option exercised are concerned about what Young might cost if he has a break-out year this season. The option itself would cost the team $17.5M in 2024, and would be fully guaranteed upon signing.
Head coach Ron Rivera is not so sure. Back in February, he went on the record indicating that the team may not pick up the option as a way to provide additional incentive for Young to perform this season.
Ron Rivera said they haven't yet decided on whether they'll exercise Chase Young's 5th-year option. They need to discuss his health and review his growth and development.— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) February 8, 2023
But he wouldn't be worried about the messaging if they declined to pick it up: pic.twitter.com/iPLQuarJcL
Here, I come down strongly on the side of Rivera, with the likelihood that Young plays well enough to command a $17.5M+ contract next year far smaller than the probability that he won’t. I hope Ron will stick by his guns, and that the team will make a longer term decision about Young’s contract trajectory after seeing his performance on the field this year.
Interestingly, despite a slim majority of voters wanting to see Young extended one more year, very few (3%) thought he was a top priority for a long-term deal. On that question, safety Kam Curl was the overwhelming favorite (66%).
The former seventh round pick, who has absolutely crushed it for the past three years, is eligible to be extended this offseason, but it doesn’t appear to be an urgent concern of the front office at this point.
A number of safeties have already been signed across the league in free agency this year, but apart from Jessie Bates - signed on a 4-year, $16M/yr deal with the Falcons - most of the deals have been relatively modest. As of right now, the next seven deals below Bates fall in the $5 - 7.5M per year range. Overall, those contracts are outside the top 15 safeties in the league.
The question becomes: What does Kam think he’s worth? Just yesterday, he gave us an idea.
The top 10 paid safeties in the NFL are all making $14M+ per year, with the top salary (Derwin James) at $19M per year. A conversation about whether to extend Curl at $6-7M per year - which I would do - versus one about extending him at $14M+ - which I wouldn’t do - is a very different one, and I think it would be prudent for the team to get a sense of where Curl’s self-valuation clearly stands this offseason.
Extending Curl this offseason would be unlikely to provide much cap relief in 2023 - he’s only slated to make $3M - but could be helpful in helping to project what the team’s 2024 cap exposure might look like.
Is Kam Curl a top 10 safety in the NFL?
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Would you be comfortable paying Kam Curl like a top 10 safety?
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