The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ryan Kerrigan’s departure leaves zero NFL players among D.C’s 10 longest-tenured athletes

Ryan Zimmerman celebrates a home run earlier this month. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

On Monday, franchise sack leader Ryan Kerrigan officially said goodbye to the Washington Football Team before announcing he was joining the division rival Philadelphia Eagles on a one-year contract. On Tuesday, Washington granted starting right tackle Morgan Moses the ability to seek a trade, with the belief that he will be released if a deal is not completed. Ron Rivera, the longest-tenured coach in the NFC East despite only being on the job for 17 months, continues to get rid of Washington’s longest-tenured players.

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington's all-time sack leader, agrees to deal with Philadelphia

Kerrigan’s departure, coupled with Moses’s looming exit and long snapper Nick Sundberg’s announcement in March that he did not factor into the team’s plans for 2021, makes Pro Bowl punter Tress Way the most familiar face in the Washington locker room. He is poised to become the only player from Washington’s 2014 roster still on the team.

Way doesn’t even crack the list of the 12 longest-tenured D.C. pro athletes, which has been periodically updated in this space since 2009 and most recently after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018. Kerrigan was one of three WFT players on that list and would’ve ranked sixth in the current list below.

In keeping with the Bog’s methodology, we’re basing this on consecutive seasons in Washington following a player’s on-field big league debut. For previous lists, see here: October 2009, December 2010, March 2012, August 2012, March 2016, June 2018.

1. Ryan Zimmerman: In his 16th season (Debut: Sept. 1, 2005)

After opting out of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 36-year-old Zimmerman returned in 2021 on a one-year, $1 million deal. The Nationals’ first draft pick is among the longest-tenured players in all of baseball; across MLB, only the St. Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina debuted for his current club before Zimmerman.

2. Alex Ovechkin: In his 16th season (Debut: Oct. 5, 2005)

Since becoming the eighth member of the 700-goal club in February 2020, Ovechkin has passed Mike Gartner and Phil Esposito on the all-time list. His next regular season tally will be his 731st and tie him with Marcel Dionne for fifth place. Ovechkin’s 13-year contract expires after this season, but owner Ted Leonsis isn’t too concerned about getting a deal done to keep the Capitals’ captain in D.C. for the remainder of his career.

3. Nicklas Backstrom: In his 14th season (Debut: Oct. 5, 2007)

No one has assisted on more of Ovechkin’s goals than Backstrom, who arrived in D.C. two years after Ovechkin’s rookie season. The franchise’s all-time leader in assists played in his 1,000th career game in April.

4. John Carlson: In his 12th season (Debut: Nov. 20, 2009)

Washington’s first-round draft pick in 2008 and Norris Trophy finalist last season signed an eight-year, $64 million contract after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

5. Stephen Strasburg: In his 12th season (Debut: June 8, 2010)

The Nationals struck a seven-year, $245 million deal with the right-hander in December 2019, two months after the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLB amateur draft won World Series MVP honors.

6. Dmitry Orlov: In his ninth season (Debut: Nov. 21, 2011)

The Capitals’ defenseman, a second-round pick by Washington in 2009 who was mistakenly omitted from the last version of this list, is signed through the 2022-23 season.

7. Bradley Beal: In his ninth season (Debut: Oct. 30, 2012)

Beal, who arrived in Washington as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft and is in the midst of his best season, is the only Wizards player on this list after John Wall was traded to the Houston Rockets in December.

8. Tori Huster: In her ninth season (Debut: April 14, 2013)

The midfielder became an original member of the Washington Spirit when the team selected her with its second pick in the 2013 NWSL supplemental draft. Huster, who starred at Florida State and has gone on loan overseas during the offseason, had an assist in the Spirit’s regular season opener on Sunday.

9. Tom Wilson: In his eighth season (Debut: May 10, 2013)

Wilson made his NHL debut for the Capitals during the 2013 playoffs and has been a physical fixture in Washington ever since.

10. Emma Meesseman: In her eighth season (Debut: May 27, 2013)

Perhaps Meesseman, a second-round draft pick of the Mystics in 2013 who earned 2019 WNBA Finals MVP honors after helping Washington to its first title, deserves an asterisk. With commitments to the Belgian national team, the 28-year-old forward hasn’t decided if she’ll return to D.C. this season. If she does, it won’t be until after the Olympics end in early August. Natasha Cloud, who debuted for the Mystics in 2015, is the team’s second-longest-tenured player.

11. Evgeny Kuznetsov: In his eighth season (Debut: March 10, 2014)

Of the eight players remaining from the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup-winning roster, six of them are on this list. Kuznetsov, who scored a playoff-best 32 points while helping Washington to the title that year, is signed through the 2024-25 season.

12. Steven Birnbaum: In his eighth season (Debut: June 7, 2014)

The D.C. United defender and captain, who continues to rehab an ankle injury after undergoing surgery during the offseason, has averaged 27 starts per season since United selected him in the first round of the 2014 draft.

Birnbaum’s teammate, goalie Bill Hamid, deserves a mention, too. The Annandale native and former DeMatha star became the first D.C. United Academy player to sign a contract with the club’s first team in September 2009 and made his debut the following year. Hamid left United after eight seasons in 2018 to sign with Danish club Midtjylland, but returned to D.C. eight months later and signed a three-year contract to remain in Washington in December 2019. If not for his brief stint in Denmark, Hamid would rank fifth on this list.

13: Tress Way: Finished his seventh season (Debut: Sept. 7, 2014)

The trivia board game creator and Madden Bowl-winning quarterback was claimed off waivers from the Bears in August 2014, then started every game for Washington that season. He made his first Pro Bowl — for his punting prowess — in 2019, and he’s signed through 2024.

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