When Ron Rivera took over as head decision-maker for the Washington Football Team on January, 1st, 2021, he had a challenging path to rebuilding the franchise. Under former General Manager, Bruce Allen, Washington frequently overspent on free agents, had cultural issues, and lost more football games than they won. Allen was fired in December, and since then, Rivera has mostly gutted the roster and brought in young players he thought would fit into Washington’s culture.
While Washington’s roster has seen a ton of turnover in the past 24 months, one of Allen’s first-round picks, Jon Allen, the 17th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has emerged as a leader on the field and in the locker room for Washington. Jon Allen became the first building block for Washington drafting four straight defensive linemen in the first round of the NFL Draft and is now going to become a key cog in Washington’s success for years to come.
On the other hand, Logan Thomas played QB for Virginia Tech in college and he attempted to transition to tight end in the NFL. Thomas began his career in Arizona, moved to Buffalo, and was with the Lions in 2019. When Rivera took over, Washington was devoid at TE, and they gave Thomas a chance to earn a roster spot and prove he can play tight end at the NFL level. After a successful 2020 season as Washington’s TE1, Thomas was also extended by Washington. Let’s take a deeper dive into these players and why both of these extensions should have Washington fans excited for the future.
Breaking Down the Extensions:
On July 26th, the day before Washington was set to report to training camp, the team announced they had extended their 2017 first-round pick to a new, four-year contract extension worth $72 million. Washington gave Allen a $30 million signing bonus, more than double of any veteran’s bonuses that is currently on the roster. Allen will play the 2021 season on the fifth-year option the team picked up before the extension which contains a cap hit of $7.1 million. Over the course of the extension, Allen’s cap hits will be $9.5 million in 2022, $21.5 million in 2023 and 2024, and $23 million in 2025.
Extending Jon Allen was a no-brainer. Allen only played five games in the 2017 season due to a foot injury but has played and started in at least 15 games over the next three seasons. During his tenure in Washington, Allen has compiled 17 sacks, 202 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, and 45 QB hits. While these numbers are not particularly gaudy, Allen impacts the game on just about every single snap.
Not only is Allen a force to be reckoned with up the middle for Washington, but he has also emerged as a leader in Washington’s locker room. Allen was named a team captain and is vocal, practices what he preaches, and is arguably a top-five interior defensive lineman in all of football. Make no mistake about it, this extension sends a message to the rest of the roster in Washington that times have changed. Players will not just get extensions and big money for their statistical impact, but players who do things the right way, lead their teammates, and also produce on the field now are the players making the big bucks for the Football Team.
Besides the obvious impact, Allen has on his teammates and the field, this extension is also a win for Washington’s front office. Allen is now the fifth highest-paid IDL in the NFL, but with the cap set to increase, this deal will go down as a bargain for Washington. Though it will be tough to retain Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and Chase Young since they will all command serious coin, this extension gives Washington a chance to keep their core four defensive linemen intact. Payne is up next for an extension and is my guess to be the odd man out, but this gives Washington leeway to potentially keep all four studs on their defensive line.
When Rivera signed Thomas from Detroit in 2020, Thomas was yet to hit his stride as an NFL tight end. Before earning the role of TE1 in Washington, Thomas had career numbers of 35 receptions for 317 yards and 0 total touchdowns. Rivera gave Thomas a chance and he blossomed right before everyone’s eyes – Thomas compiled 72 catches for 670 yards and five touchdowns as Washington’s number two receiving threat.
Another player that came into Washington and did things the right way, Thomas quickly became another example that under this new regime, this is how you get paid. Just 24 hours after Allen signed his extension, Thomas was given a three-year extension worth up to $24 million. Thomas’ cap hits are $4.1 million in 2021, $6.4 million in 2022, $8.7 in 2023, and $8.3 million in 2024.
Though he is already 30 years old, Thomas finally began to understand the nuances of the tight end position in the NFL, and most importantly of all, his confidence skyrocketed. Thomas is Washington’s TE1 and does not have any competition for those snaps. Thomas played 93% of Washington’s offensive snaps in 2020 and I expect that number to remain consistent barring injuries. Because of his QB background, Thomas can also be deployed in trick plays as a passer, adding a surprise element to Scott Turner’s play calling.
Rivera has made it clear what it takes to be a member of the Football Team for the future: work hard, practice hard, and do things the right way. Allen and Thomas epitomize these beliefs and were both rewarded with new deals before training camp kicked off. Washington fans should be excited about these extensions for two reasons. For starters, they locked in two players that have been crucial to their team’s success. And secondly, Washington has retained two players at modest cap numbers which gives them the flexibility to sign other young players to extensions or take on a veteran Quarterbacks contract.
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