- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RICHMOND — While Ryan Kerrigan claimed it was still too soon for him to process the five-year, $57.5 million contract he signed with the Washington Redskins, the truth is that he’ll never be able to do that.

After all, how does one comprehend such a seemingly infinite sum of money — one that will not only radically change his life, but also potentially that of his parents, his brother, and his future offspring, if he so chooses?

A protracted negotiation wrapped up Wednesday afternoon with Kerrigan finally signing the deal, which will pay him a $16 million signing bonus and $24.28 million guaranteed. It will keep him with the Redskins through the 2020 season, meaning that Kerrigan, 26, one of the team’s brightest young stars, will play his prime seasons in a Washington uniform.

“The fact that it got done is the biggest thing, not whether it got done a week ago or now,” Kerrigan said. “It got done. I’m really excited. I’m sure it will hit me at some point, but right now, it’s just all about football right now.”

The Redskins had been negotiating with Kerrigan’s agent since the end of last season, though contract talks didn’t pick up until recent days. The agreement was reached late Tuesday night, with Kerrigan signing the contract shortly after reporting for training camp Wednesday afternoon.

Kerrigan will play out the final year of his rookie contract this season — an agreement reached in May 2014, when the Redskins exercised their option to bring him back on a one-year, $7.038 million deal — before the new terms kick in.

The signing of the contract happens at a fortunate time for Kerrigan, who cashed in on his career highs of 51 tackles, 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles from last season. Drafted with the No. 16 overall pick out of Purdue in 2011, Kerrigan has played in every game during his four years, including a stretch where he played every snap during his first 26 games with the Redskins.

His role will change this year, with the oft-injured Brian Orakpo having signed with the Tennessee Titans in the offseason, Trent Murphy likely assuming a full-time role opposite Kerrigan in his second season and the Redskins hoping to adopt more of an aggressive pass rush in their retooled one-gap, 3-4 defensive scheme.

“He’s a guy that plays every down,” coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s a guy that can stop the run, obviously. He’s very good at the point of attack, and he’s a guy that can get after the quarterback, so you know, we’re going to get consistent play out of Ryan. We need people around Ryan. He needs to continue to prove himself, obviously, and he will. He’s that type of guy, and he sets that tone for other people.

“When you see somebody like that get rewarded, and you see the type of work that he puts in, both on and off the field, it shows young guys what we’re all about here with the Washington Redskins, and other guys will follow. That’s what we need. We need more guys to perform like that and play like that.”

That type of work ethic was instilled in Kerrigan way before he joined the Redskins. John Hochstetler, Kerrigan’s coach at Muncie Central High School in Indiana, recalled Kerrigan’s devotion and commitment even before he joined Hochstetler’s team.

Watching him work out as an eighth-grader, Hochstetler was surprised by Kerrigan’s athleticism, which, even then, he judged to be far superior than that of several players already on the team.

“I’ve had a couple thousand kids in my 28 years of coaching high school football, and he is probably not only the greatest player, but also the greatest person that I’ve ever come into contact with,” Hochstetler said. “How often do you get to say that happens?”

Kerrigan has made his preference to stay with the Redskins well known over the years. This spring, he took over as the presenting sponsor of a local golf tournament that raises funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and his foundation, launched two years ago, provides support for children and families in need in the greater Washington area.

“When you come to the NFL, and you get drafted by a certain team, you immediately develop a certain affinity for that team and that organization and that city,” Kerrigan said. “I certainly feel that way about the Redskins, and for them to give me this kind of vote of confidence to hopefully finish my career out [with the Redskins], it means the world to me.”

That’s no surprise to Hochstetler, who said he and Kerrigan are constantly in touch — which, he stressed, is something Kerrigan has made a priority. Even though Hochstetler now coaches at nearby Monroe Central High School, Kerrigan has still showed up at times to offer his support.

Although the two spoke recently, Hochstetler said Kerrigan never brought up the prospect of a new contract. When apprised of the value of Kerrigan’s new contract on Wednesday afternoon, Hochstetler was in awe.

“It’s a smart investment,” Hochstetler said. “I think he’s worth every penny of it.”

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