Perry Riley Jr. is another linebacker Washington would be wise to keep in town. He is one of the few members of a suspect defense to have improved every season.
Negotiations over a new contract have already started, per a report from Zac Boyer of The Washington Times. Those negotiations could be tough though, as other circumstances have increased Riley's value.
Veteran backups Nick Barnett and Bryan Kehl are both free agents, while London Fletcher is expected to retire. That would leave Riley as the only experienced, starting-caliber inside linebacker on the defense.
But far from simply being the last man standing at his position, Riley's value is endorsed by his growing role in the defensive scheme.
As Mike Jones of The Washington Post highlights, Riley has taken on more responsibility as the successor in waiting to Fletcher:
Riley spent the two previous seasons as London Fletcher’s sidekick at inside linebacker. But this past season, although Fletcher continued to make all of the defensive calls while serving as an on-field extension of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, Riley’s duties expanded as he more frequently drew pass coverage assignments. He also overtook Fletcher as the team’s leading tackler, recording 115. He also recorded three sacks and an interception.
Riley, if re-signed, would likely take over as the “quarterback” of the defense. He has spent the past four years following Fletcher around and picking his brain in position meetings and in their own private video study sessions, trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible from the future Hall of Fame candidate. Riley has made plays for the Redskins, but he will have to raise his level of play another notch of two so he becomes more of a difference-maker for the defense. Late in the 2012 season, he seemed poised to do so in 2013. But Riley’s impact wasn’t as significant as it could have been. Redskins officials believe he can take the next step, however.
That last line is significant, as is Jones' assertion that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett considers retaining Riley a priority.
If Riley is the next on-field play-caller for this defense, that only increases the odds the Allen re-signs him.
But the team is not without options in any negotiation with 2010's fourth-round pick. Experienced inside linebackers can usually be picked up cheap. Indeed, this year's market features several wily vets who could appeal.
Players like New York Giants starter Jon Beason or Karlos Dansby of the Arizona Cardinals could easily slot into this 3-4 scheme.
That could weigh on Allen's mind if, as Jones anticipates, Riley seeks a deal on a par with what the Miami Dolphins paid Dannell Ellerbe last offseason, a contract Jones puts at $7 million annually.
That may seem like a steep figure, but the Redskins have spent a long time trying to stockpile pieces for their 3-4. They are likely to be loath to let a player as versed in their scheme as Riley walk.
A lack of credible depth also makes it likely Washington re-signs Riley soon, albeit probably not on an Ellerbe-like contract.
Odds Riley Re-Signs: 3-1