What should the Redskins do with Brian Orakpo? First, they must retain him and I feel by any means necessary.
Franchise tag him or sign him to a long term deal at a fair number are the only two choices in my eyes. Yes, that means that if you are amongst the group that thinks Orakpo can just be replaced, you are not thinking realistically and more important, you are wrong.
This defense needs to add talent, not subtract and then try to replace it. Orakpo is not Aldon Smith or Von Miller. He's also not an idiot like those guys are. Both of them. Two knuckleheads that I would never want on my team.
Orakpo is a guy I want on my team. No questions asked. He should be the Redskins # 1 priority, as my pal Rick Snider wrote about this earlier this week.
Orakpo is a core Redskin. The Redskins need players have worked hard to get better. Many believe he's not an elite pass rusher. I know he feels like he is, and Jim Haslett feels he is, but the raw numbers would suggest a debate can be made on both sides.
Orakpo is now a three time Pro Bowler after his addition to the 2014 game. He posted double digit sacks in 2013 for the first time since 2009.
Orakpo started off somewhat slow and tentative as he was trying to make his way back from missing nearly the entire 2012 season. He posted a sack in a dreadful loss at Lambeau Field when the Redskins were attacking Aaron Rodgers before the Packer great got comfortable himself. That sack put Orakpo over 30 in his career and was his first since what happened in St. Louis in week 2 of 2012.
In Orakpo's best individual game of the season, he abused an awful, backup left tackle in Oakland for two sacks and also had a monster run stop on 3rd-and-1 that forced a long field goal miss by Sebastian Janikowski and which turned into points for the Redskins and their first win of the season.
Who knew they would only have two more?
In the Redskins 2nd win of the season, Orakpo would have his first interception in the NFL and his first career touchdown as Reed Doughty combined with Orakpo to pop a ball up in to the air, and Orakpo had what he called his first interception at any level. Hard to fathom, but he insisted on it.
Orakpo did not dominate another backup left tackle in Chris Clark of the Broncos like the Redskins really needed but he did have a 2nd career fumble recovery in a valiant effort for the defense in Denver.
He really cranked up the pass rush numbers and very much improved run defense down the stretch with a sack in Philadelphia and against San Francisco. Six days later, in the midst of a lost season - Orakpo had two sacks against the Giants for his eighth multi-sack game.
During this stretch, Orakpo had a sack in four straight games for the first time in his five year career, a period that ended with 5.5 sacks in that four game span.
Orakpo got into double digits in Atlanta with 1.5 sacks against a backup left tackle yet again but it still should be noted that not everybody gets to double digits. Very few do. Orakpo also had a 2nd career fumble recovery in the Atlanta loss.
So what do you do with him? How do you retain Orakpo while protecting yourself at the same time.
"If I could get him to agree to take a home-team discount which I don't think he will, in the Paul Kruger range (8 MM per year),I would sign that," said Joel Corry on ESPN 980 Wednesday night. Corry, a former sports agent and NFL salary cap analyst for CBSSports.com and the National Football Post realizes the chances are slim and none on that front. "Knowing that's not going to happen realistically, the franchise tag becomes a real option."
For a change the Redskins have money to spend under the cap. While figures vary and are dependent on what they do with certain situations (Adam Carriker, Chris Chester?) "the Redskins are going to have roughly 25-26 million worth of cap room," says Corry. That allows them to tag Orakpo (at just under 11 million) and "then you make the decision next year."
Tagging Orakpo with the designation might frustrate Orakpo and his agents at CAA, but it is the most realistic option. It does not prevent a long term deal as Corry explained that both sides could still arrive at one by the cut-off date of July 15th.
Corry explained that Orakpo would still have some leverage in this particular scenario by not reporting to training camp in Richmond (unlikely) and not signing the franchise tender offer. In such a scenario, Orakpo could negotiate a clause that would prevent a franchise or transition tag designation for 2015 or Corry said Orakpo could actually ask for more money than the franchise tag would dictate.
Corry said the reason for this would be that a "2nd franchise tag (2015) is 120 % of the previous year's salary." In other words, Orakpo would get more money this year (2014) while making it extremely difficult for the Redskins to use the franchise tag again.
The problem for Washington is that a franchise tag this year would count for more than one-third of their approximate salary cap room.
If the Redskins were to seriously entertain a long term contract with Orakpo, the average annual value of the contract could be north of 11 million, but "it's really what he's going to make in the first three years," according to Corry.
Clay Matthews signed a monster deal with the Packers while Paul Kruger is on that more modest contract Corry mentioned as we look at the high-end and lower level multi-year contracts for edge pass rushers that have been signed recently.
As I wrote in May, Orakpo has a fair argument for where he stands and even more so after a healthy 2013.
Corry points out something to keep in mind that "Greg Hardy (Carolina DE) who will be the best pass rusher on the market," will probably not get out of Carolina. However, Michael Johnson of Cincinnati could certainly be set free by the Bengals (Minnesota anyone?) and whether he is or he isn't, take a guess who the next best pass rusher is?? "It's Brian Orakpo," says Corry and the numbers from ProFootballFocus.com would certainly back that up.
Ultimately, Orakpo is going to want money too rich for the Redskins blood and as I've said all along, that's why the NFL created the current system.
"Franchising him may become the actual thing that happens if the Redskins think his demands are excessive," says Corry. They will be, in any reasonable opinion.
The Redskins also have to balance whatever they do with Orakpo with the assumed need that they will try very hard to bring back DeAngelo Hall, Perry Riley and Chris Baker.
The problem is, combined with a franchise tag for Orakpo (my expectation) and three new contracts for those players, it might leave the Redskins with five million dollars or less of salary cap room to actually add talent.
Hall played for virtual peanuts last year, and will be looking for a deal that will bring better value. Corry explained "the big problem is he's at 30 so that's the wrong age. He made 2 million if you include his incentives. Maybe a 2-3 year deal, you give him some salary escalators and incentives. Maybe 9-10 million over three years if he maxes out everything, but you don't break the bank for him."
That's not even getting to Riley who may want something similar to what Dannell Ellerbe received from the Dolphins. Baker should be a hot commodity, after drawing interest from the Seahawks as a restricted free agent last year. His strong play down the stretch as a versatile defensive lineman who can play nose and end, along with the ability to play a defensive tackle position in a 4-3 should lead to a nice payday.
Tough decisions ahead for Bruce Allen, Jay Gruden and the Redskins