Lichtensteiger is eligible for unrestricted free agency when the market opens March 12. He said after the recently completed season that he would like to stay with the Redskins.
“I hope I’m here still,” Lichtensteiger said the day after the Redskins’ playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. “I honestly do hope that. I don’t want to leave this system. I don’t want to leave these coaches and I don’t want to leave my teammates. I think the best-case scenario for me is if I get a new deal here. But at the same time, you’ve got to explore all the options. So I’ll just see what happens and see who wants to talk to me.”
Lichtensteiger started every game for the Redskins this past season, earning a salary of about $1.2 million. He was part of an offensive line that remained intact for practically the entire season and outperformed expectations. The Redskins had a highly productive offense led by two rookies, quarterback Robert Griffin III and tailback Alfred Morris, and the line did its part, observers said during the season.
But the Redskins again will have less salary cap flexibility than other teams do, They are preparing to absorb the second half of the $36 million, two-year cap reduction imposed by the NFL for the manner in which they structured player contracts during the 2010 season, when there was no salary cap.
Some tough decisions might have to be made. The Redskins have a potential replacement for Lichtensteiger in Josh LeRibeus, a third-round draft choice last year. LeRibeus played sparingly as a rookie. But he did fill in for Lichtensteiger during the playoff defeat to the Seahawks after Lichtensteiger, attempting to play on a sprained left ankle, left during the opening offensive series. The Redskins also have Maurice Hurt, who made eight starts for Lichtensteiger in 2011 when Lichtensteiger was sidelined by a knee injury.
“I’m going to be going into my sixth year,” Lichtensteiger said last month. “I’m not a young guy any more. So you want to get something that can set you up pretty good for later in life to take care of your family. But at the same time, you want to be happy where you’re working. I feel I’m definitely going to be the most happy working here, playing for Mike [Shanahan] and being a Redskin.”
Lichtensteiger is one of two potential unrestricted free agents among the team’s five offensive line starters this past season. The other is right tackle Tyler Polumbus.