Preston Smith has quietly put together a solid four-year run with the Redskins since Washington selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft. Although his sack production has fluctuated a bit, he has posted 24.5 sacks in his career to go along with 59 quarterback hits, and the general consensus is that he still has room to grow.
He graded out as the eighth-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the league in 2018 (and No. 19 edge defender) per Pro Football Focus, and he may very well be the best rush linebacker on the market when free agency opens in March. Although the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney and the Chiefs’ Dee Ford may be more desirable targets, they appear destined to remain with their current clubs, either through a long-term contract or the franchise tag.
Smith does not appear to be a candidate for a tag, and John Keim of ESPN.com reports that Smith and the Redskins have still not had any meaningful contract talks. That was the case in August, and it seems that nothing has changed since then. Washington did draft Ryan Anderson in the second round of the 2017 draft, and the 2019 draft is stocked with quality pass rushers, so it could be that the Redskins are prepared to increase Anderson’s role while adding a rookie quarterback hunter or two in April.
After all, Smith is in line for a nice payday. Pro Football Focus recently projected that Ford, if he does not play the 2019 season under the tag, would land a five-year, $95MM deal with $55MM in guarantees, and while Smith may not get too close to that, a contract worth a total of $60MM or so with a sizable guarantee would not be surprising. And since the Redskins’ salary cap will be negatively impacted by the Alex Smith situation, it makes sense that the team would want to explore cheaper alternatives.
One way or another, Preston Smith’s age, production, upside, and durability — he has not missed a game in his four years as a pro, and he has started every game for Washington since 2016 — will serve him well.
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