Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Perry Riley Jr. is in a strong bargaining position.
General manager Bruce Allen has already brought back the most important linebacker on the defense, outside pass-rusher Brian Orakpo. The move to franchise tag Orakpo has rightly been lauded as a smart one by Rick Snider of the Washington Post.
But Allen must now avoid overpaying for inside 'backer Perry Riley Jr. It would be easy to fall into that trap considering the team's weakness at the position.
London Fletcher has retired and depth is virtually nonexistent. Veterans Nick Barnett and Bryan Kehl are free agents, while 2012 fourth-round pick Keenan Robinson has missed 21 games through injury.
Those factors put Riley, who led the defense in tackles in 2013, in a strong bargaining position. It's true that the 25-year-old has grown as a player.
He is versatile, athletic and productive. But there are still some inconsistencies to his game. Riley will miss many tackles he should make and can be fooled in zone coverage.
The advantage Allen has is the strength of the market at the position. Several quality veterans, including Jon Beason, Karlos Dansby and Daryl Smith, are available.
So is New England Patriots bruiser Brandon Spikes. All of these experienced pros fit well in a linebacker-led scheme like the one Washington operates.
There are also plenty of options available via the draft. Prospects like Stanford's Shayne Skov or Wisconsin's Chris Borland will be on the radar in May.
Riley is a solid and developing starter, and if Allen can do the right deal, then he should. But the team can survive his loss.
It can certainly resist entering a bidding war with the player and still be confident of restocking the position.