ASHBURN, Va. -- If Saturday night was Ryan Kerrigan's final game as a member of the Washington Football Team - and it likely was - a chapter that started in 2011 with a bang went out with a bit of a thud.
Kerrigan was drafted No. 16 overall by Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett after Washington traded down from the 10th overall pick and bypassed taking J.J. Watt, who of course turned out to be dominant.
A mid first-round pick from Purdue without a dynamic personality didn't exactly inspire the fan base. But as we look back on a terrific career in Washington, it was a heck of a pick.
Kerrigan was a 4-3 base end and asked immediately to switch to a 3-4 edge in Washington's system. All he did was turn out to be the franchise leader in sacks with 95.5 in 156 games.
He only started one game this year for Washington, but played in all 16, something he did in every season of his career except for the back end of 2019 when his consecutive-game streak was snapped while missing his first ever NFL game. (Ironically, against Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers).
Now the future calls. An unrestricted free agent. Age 32. Durable, smart, productive, a model citizen and teammate.
"I definitely want to be a starter," Kerrigan said on Sunday, well-aware that WFT now has Montez Sweat and Chase Young filling those roles. "I think any player would say that. I don't think anybody just wants to settle for being a role player or a reserve player."
Kerrigan has done this the right way. A player who he helped immensely this year is none other than first-round rookie Young.
About 15 minutes after Saturday night's playoff loss to Tampa, Kerrigan walked out on to the FedExField one more time. Still in his uniform pants, he peered around the edifice while talking on the phone.
He then shuffled to the Washington Football bench, sat down and further soaked in the atmosphere of an empty 80,000-seat stadium.
Kerrigan said a flood of memories came over him. Who could forget how it started? A pick-six interception of Eli Manning and the New York Giants on the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, in his very first NFL game.
There was a magical night of winning the NFC East over the Cowboys the next year. Like any young player, Kerrigan probably thought at the time, "This is how my career will likely go.''
It didn't. There were many more frustrating game days ahead. ... A lot of them on the field and sideline that he walked, likely one last time.
Kerrigan is not an emotions-in-public person. His sack celebration was the height of his expression.
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But there is some emotion now,
"I've got to really be open-minded to several factors and open-minded to all teams," said Kerrigan, who seemed willing to be dealt back at the trade deadline. "That's kind of what I plan to do. I definitely feel like I've still got a lot of ball in me, a lot of good productive years ahead."
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Now, the four-time Pro Bowler doesn't have to worry about a trade. He's free to leave the only football home he's ever known. Maybe he'll do it with relatively "fresh legs,'' as he only played 38% (397) of Washington's snaps. ... but he did finish with 5.5 sacks this year, the same amount as 2019 and with fewer opportunities.
The Ryan Kerrigan pick was a great one, and so was the WFT career. ... befitting a person who has carried himself with greatness as well.