Among the many decisions that Washington Redskins brass needs to make this offseason involves how the organization will approach negotiations on a new deal for outside linebacker Junior Galette.
Signed to a one-year contract a day into training camp after the New Orleans Saints abruptly dismissed him after a year of conflict (both with the organization and the law), Galette provided the potential to significantly upgrade Washington’s pass rush. Grateful for a chance for redemption with a new team, Galette vowed to repay the Redskins with a productive year, and by proving himself as a model citizen.
However, Galette ruptured an Achilles’ tendon late in the preseason and never played a down for the Redskins in 2015. As the season came to a close, Galette maintained a desire to re-sign with the Redskins. He said he had no doubt that the two sides would get a deal done. He was so confident about that fact, that he got a big tattoo of the Redskins’ logo on his right shoulder.
General manager Scot McCloughan also has expressed a desire to re-sign Galette, but it remains to be seen if the two sides actually can agree to a deal.
The Redskins first must determine what kind of player Galette, 27, will be as he comes off of Achilles’ surgery. Can he regain the form that enabled him to rack up a combined 22 sacks in 2013 and 2014? Or, will the injury wind up robbing him of the explosiveness upon which he relies so greatly?
Galette naturally expressed confidence in his ability to make a full recovery. He said in January that he already was ahead of schedule and doing some running. He expected to receive full clearance by the start of offseason practices.
Teammates, and McCloughan, also have expressed confidence in Galette’s ability to recover.
But, what does that optimism mean for contract negotiations? Are the Redskins better off giving Galette another one-year, “prove it” deal? Or, does it benefit the team to give him a multiyear deal?
Another one-year contract would help the team avoid the risk of committing long-term money to a player who might not still be the same post-injury. But, Galette isn’t likely going to accept another veteran’s minimum type of deal like he did last season when he still was being paid $12.5 million by the Saints.
Instead, people familiar with his thinking believe that while he would prefer to sign a one-year deal so he could prove himself and set himself up for a big pay day in 2017. Galette wants to be paid like a talented pass rusher this offseason as well, which could mean a contract in the $7 million-to-$9 million range.
The Redskins aren’t likely going to want to give him that type of deal, however, because they already have only around $12 million in cap space. They also need to free up money to create greater flexibility so they can both re-sign Kirk Cousins for what could be around $15 million to $20 million per year, and upgrade the roster at other positions.
Washington could look to sign Galette to a multiyear deal that features a low base salary and lots of incentives that would increase his earnings if he meets certain performance goals. That type of contract would better benefit the team financially because it would translate into more favorable salary cap hits in each year of the deal.
However, Galette would hesitate to sign a contract that features only minimal guaranteed money, league insiders predict. Instead, he’d likely rather play on a prove-it deal (that also pays him like one of the better pass rushers for this season) and if he plays well, Galette would then set himself up to land a handsome, multiyear contract as he turns 29.
Galette could have a hard time landing such a contract because of Washington’s cap situation. And another team also would likely hesitate to pay him $7 million to $9 million, both because he’s coming off of the injury, and because of his off-field issues in previous years.
One element that could help Washington is the fact that Galette is now represented by Peter Schaffer, who happens to be McCloughan’s agent as well. Galette has changed agents multiple times during his six-year career, and last season had a falling out with Alvin Keels because he was unhappy with how last year’s contract with the Redskins was structured, with his salary dropping from $745,000 to $413,000 when he got hurt and went on injured reserve. He fired Keels during the season.
It will be interesting to see if the mutual representation winds up better benefiting McCloughan and the Redskins, or Galette.
One thing is clear, however. Washington certainly remains in great need of pass-rushing help. Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith both finished off the year on a strong note, but outside of those two, the Redskins lacked other impactful edge rushers.
And so, both the team, and Galette find themselves in desperate positions.