In-housekeeping: Is now the time for Washington to extend Jonathan Allen?

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JP Finlay
·5 min read
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In-housekeeping: Is now the time to extend Jonathan Allen? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

This week, for their "In-housekeeping" series, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey examine how Washington should approach the major questions related to players currently on the roster. Next up: Jonathan Allen.

The 2017 first-round pick is already under contract for the 2021 season due to an option on his agreement, but after that, he's scheduled to hit free agency. So, should the franchise move to extend his deal now before the two sides reach that point?

Here's how JP and Pete view the situation.

JP's take

This one is complicated. 

Outside of an injury during his rookie season in 2017 that cost him 11 games, Allen has been a good, dependable force on Washington's defensive line. He doesn't play a position where statistics are at a premium, which is good because the stats don't flash, but that's not important when considering a long-term contract extension. 

What is important, however, is the cost to keep Allen and what it means elsewhere on the defensive line. 

Washington spent first-round picks on defensive linemen for four straight years, starting with Allen in 2017 and then Daron Payne in 2018, Montez Sweat in 2019 and Chase Young in 2020. Looking at that collection of talent, it's hard to envision all four players remaining in Washington beyond their rookie deal. The math just gets impossible. 

Elite interior defensive linemen get paid $20 million per season. Good interior defensive linemen get paid $16 million per season.

Good edge rushers can make $23 million, and great ones can make $27 million. It's not a naive position to believe Young could become the highest-paid defensive player in the sport in a few years, either. 

Consider all that, and consider that contract talks would likely start north of $12 million per season for Allen, and it serves as a reason to look at all of the team's options. Payne is two years younger than Allen and will be in the same contract situation this time next year. 

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Payne could be the better option for a contract extension, if for no other reason than less tread on the tires. Go way back to 2017, however, and there could be another reason.

Coming out of Alabama after a dominant four-year career, most expected Allen to be drafted in the Top 5 that year, or certainly the Top 10. He slipped to Washington with the 17th pick due to some concern of arthritic shoulders. 

There has been zero indication of that issue during his time in Washington — Allen's missed just one game in the last three seasons — but the concern was always for later in his career as the collisions start to add up. 

In a perfect world Washington, would pay up and keep Allen in Burgundy and Gold for his entire career. He's a terrific story, as he played his high school football right down the road from the team's Ashburn headquarters and was Washington's Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2020. 

But it's not a perfect world, and Ron Rivera's team needs to consider the long-term future for its defensive line and the team as a whole. It's fair to expect big-money extensions for guys like Brandon Scherff this year, then next year or soon after that think about Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat and eventually a mega-deal for Chase Young. Oh, and this team is actively seeking a franchise QB. That costs serious cash, too. 

Pete's take

JP's take is awesome. I'm tempted to just copy and paste it for my section, because 1) it was that well constructed and 2) I'd be able to start watching the random NBA contests I have bets on. However, I don't want my friend to sue me for plagiarism, so I'll dive into some of my own thoughts on Allen.

Let's quickly play devil's advocate, and I'll begin that argument by using a phrase that'll make me sound like I'm 70: a bird in hand is better than two in the bush. 

Yes, Daron Payne absolutely looks like someone who'd be worth inking to an extension of his own soon, but Allen is at that part of his career now, and we know that he's deserving of one. What happens if Washington elects to bypass locking up Allen, and then Payne runs into injury troubles of his own or sees his performance slip for some other reason? Hindsight could be pretty damning in that scenario.

However, even with that risk, I ultimately do agree with JP's conclusion that the stud overload that Washington's experiencing up front is going to lead to some difficult decisions, the first of which should be to not commit to Allen. It's a shame, because he's mostly delivered on his first-round billing and he also brings an intensity that spreads to the rest of his position group.

That said, I'll take this a step further; Allen might be the perfect trade piece come the 2021 deadline. What if Washington is in the mix for the division once again, but they need an extra wideout or a corner to feel better about their standing? Allen would be someone worth dangling out there as a short-term rental for another contender to ensure they get at least something for all his production and attractive traits.