On March 27th during the 2014 NFL Offseason, Pro-Bowl Outside Linebacker Brian Orakpo signed the franchise tag given to him by the Washington Redskins. The tag is worth $11.45 million dollars over the course of one season. This is a huge amount of money, no doubt, but a one year franchise tag doesn't offer much in long term job security, and that is what every NFL player wants regardless of how much money they make.
Brian Orakpo has stated that he intends to play this year out, but he doesn't believe he has to prove himself to anybody.
Whatever Orakpo does during this season, he must show the team something that encourages keeping him on the roster. He can do this by amassing more than 10 sacks in 2014. This task should be achievable for the star-studded player, because he has improved his play as a 3-4 Outside Linebacker every year since making the switch from a 4-3 Defensive End back in 2010. Check out his stats from the past three years he has been active in the Washington defense (this excludes 2012, when he suffered a season ending pectoral injury):
- 2010 - 56 tackles - 8.5 sacks - 2 pass deflections - 1 forced fumble
- 2011 - 60 tackles - 9 sacks - 5 pass deflections - 3 forced fumbles - 1 fumble recovery
- 2013 - 60 tackles - 10 sacks - 4 pass deflections - 2 fumble recoveries - 1 interception returned for touchdown
Orakpo's sack numbers are of utmost importance being that he is a pure bull rushing Linebacker. These statistics show that, if the trend continues, Orakpo should be primed for more than 10 sacks in 2014. He also won't have to go at it alone. He will be joined by fellow pass rushers Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher, and Trent Murphy.
There is no denying Orakpo's physical talent, locker room presence, and leadership on the field. So, what is holding the team back from pulling the trigger on this deal? The aforementioned season ending pectoral injury that Orakpo suffered in 2012 may be the key factor in this situation. His long term health could be in question in the Redskins' front office. However, he is already one year removed from that injury, and it is possible for him to shake off all those health concerns with a productive and healthy 2014 campaign.
He may not even have to go that far. Many people believe that 2014 second round Draft pick Trent Murphy could serve as a valuable insurance policy in the event that Orakpo does go down with an injury. It also adds to Bruce Allen's leverage in contract negotiations with Orakpo in the future. However, some also believe that the drafting of Trent Murphy signifies a straight up replacement for Orakpo.
If Washington can get him signed for around $11-$12 million dollars a year, it would be a sound decision. On the other hand, if Orakpo wants upwards of $14 million dollars a year, the team will be forced to reconsider.
The Redskins have around $4 million dollars left in cap space, but after cuts are made to trim the roster down to 53 players, the team could have over $10 million dollars left in 2014. Any money that isn't spent will roll over into next years cap, which will give the team even more space to absorb a long term contract for Orakpo.
Orakpo is good, but he has yet to prove that he deserves elite money. Washington must be cautious while considering this long term contract. Do they pay him elite money in hopes that he evolves into the player he claims to be; or do they play it safe by holding on to their money and waiting to see how the market plays out for him after 2014? With that said, a big pay day is imminent for Orakpo. He will earn more than $11 million dollars a year when it is all said and done. The only question is; will it come from the Redskins, or another team? Hopefully, the answer is the former, so Redskins Nation can continue to witness bone jarring hits such as these: