Chase Roullier and Keith Ismael’s performance will be critical for the Redskins in 2020 and beyond.
In the not-so-distant future, the Washington Redskins are going to have to make a decision about their starting center position. For the past two and half seasons, Chase Roullier has been entrenched as the starter there. In 2017, he took over for an injured Spencer Long and has hung onto the job ever since.
Roullier has progressed steadily and developed into a solid starting center. He’s not a special talent, but he gets the job done and has been pretty reliable for Washington.
That said, 2020 will be a critical season for Roullier. He’s entering a contract year and if the sixth-round pick turns in another solid campaign, he will likely cash in. Again, he won’t get a massive deal, but he’ll be due a significant raise from the $636K average salary he has been making since coming into the league.
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The Redskins are armed with cap space for the 2021 offseason. So, they could opt to keep Roullier if they wanted to. However, they have another player waiting in the wings to potentially take over for him, fifth-round rookie Keith Ismael.
Ismael was selected by the Redskins with one of the picks they acquired in the Trent Williams trade. The San Diego State product was a bit of a surprise pick since center wasn’t as high on the list as some of the team’s other needs, but given Roullier’s pending free agency, the pick made sense.
Ismael has some traits that the Redskins can work with. He has a quick first step and good feet that should afford him the chance to find success at the next level. But he also has a lot of areas to improve and he will likely need a developmental year to truly be ready as a starter at the next level. He can be given a chance to work as a backup, but starting him too early could stunt his growth a bit.
So, both Roullier and Ismael’s performance will be important for the Redskins this season. On the field, Roullier has to continue his upward trajectory in order to prove that he deserves a second contract with the Redskins. A strong season could make the team consider keeping him, though it could also drive his value up a bit higher than what the Redskins want to pay.
Of course, what the Redskins might consider paying Roullier will probably be linked directly to the development of Ismael. If he progresses well, the team can be comfortable with using him as the successor to Roullier. If he doesn’t add a little strength or improve his ability to sustain blocks, then the team may want to consider bringing back Roullier, if the fourth-year pro does well in 2020.
The Redskins seem to have a couple of good centers on their roster. But 2020 will likely answer the question about who the long-term starter will be. Will Roullier hang onto the job and make the team consider re-signing him? Or will Ismael show that his ceiling is more than that of a quality backup and make Roullier expendable?
Only time will tell, but this will certainly be a storyline to watch over the course of the next few months.