Washington Redskins Free Agency: Who Is in Play for the Franchise Tag?

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Washington Redskins Free Agency: Who Is in Play for the Franchise Tag?
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins have used the franchise tag just three times since its inception in 1993. And despite a fresh face in new head coach Jay Gruden coming to town, the franchise's possibility of using the tag for a fourth time come spring seems pretty slim. 

According to Joel Corry of CBS Sports, the NFL salary cap for 2014 is expected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $126.5 million. Based on those numbers, Corry has provided some franchise tag projections (which are strictly preliminary calculations) for each position, which I will refer to throughout the next few paragraphs. 

Even with close to two dozen players due to hit free agency this offseason, the Redskins aren't exactly stacked with deserving candidates for the often discussed franchise tag. 

 

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Orakpo 

As I've mentioned here at B/R before, I'm not in favor of placing the tag on linebacker Brian Orakpo. The projected cap damage is expected to be close to $11 million, which is pretty heavy; next season would have huge implications on a future deal, which could in fact hurt the Redskins' wallet; and hitting a guy who is in search of a multi-year deal could tarnish any possibility of future negotiations for next offseason. 

If the Redskins can re-sign Orakpo at a fair price, then doing so is in their best interest. But if the 27-year-old linebacker demands elite pass-rusher money, the Redskins can certainly spend their coin elsewhere and likely address two positions on the defensive side of the ball rather than just one. 

Gruden has said publicly he plans on keeping the 3-4 in Washington, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post. But with Jim Haslett expected to also stay on as the team's defensive coordinator (according to Mike Jones and Mark Maske of the Washington Post), seeing Orakpo in the same role as last season isn't worth anywhere near $11 million. 

Right now, the Redskins can come to the table with a slight bit of leverage. They can compare Orakpo's production numbers to that of guys like DeMarcus Ware, and they can use the argument of durability in their favor. 

Say they give Orakpo the franchise tag this offseason and he has an outstanding 2014 campaign. Then, the Redskins are left without leverage at all. Orakpo would demand elite money next spring, and there wouldn't be much the team could do aside from paying him or letting him walk. 

Or, even worse, say the Redskins give Orakpo the franchise tag and he blows out his pectoral muscle four games into the season. The team's then out nearly $11 million for minimal production, and who knows what kind of damage to a player/team relationship that's existed since Orakpo was drafted 13th-overall by Washington in 2009. 

It just doesn't seem worth it. You either want Orakpo back for a few years or not at all.

 

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Fred Davis

If Mike Shanahan were still here, I'd put Fred Davis' chances of returning to the team somewhere right around two percent. But with Jay Gruden now in house—and his love for two tight end sets—a pass-catching tight end like Davis who can stretch the seam becomes a bit more intriguing for next season. 

Corry's projected number for tight ends next season is just over $6.7 million, which isn't terribly hateful for a will-be 28-year-old who we know can make catches so long as he can stay out of the coaches doghouse. 

Assuming Davis can stoke a fire in his belly (sup, Bruce Allen) and find a sense of urgency and motivation with Gruden now at the helm and former tight ends coach Sean McVay likely becoming the team's offensive coordinator, hitting Davis—who is now one year removed from an Achilles surgery—with the tag would be like the best tasting ingredient in a bad tasting soup. 

If the team decided to go that route, then after the season, regardless of production, Davis is another year older, and he may like the new backdrop here in Washington enough to stick around for another few seasons if the team so chooses. 

 

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Perry Riley 

As crazy as this sounds, the only reason I'm throwing Perry Riley's name into the mix is because I saw it suggested in a series of comments last week, which means it's an idea by at least one guy. 

Riley will be 26 at the beginning of next season, and while he isn't a superstar or flashy name, he's a dependable inside linebacker who showed progress last season. He's the kind of guy you can feel comfortable signing to a multi-year deal this spring. 

Bottom line: Bruce Allen would never let this happen. Financially, hitting Riley with the franchise tag would be similar to shooting yourself in the foot. Save your money, spend wisely and re-sign Riley to a respectable deal.

 

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Jackson

The only way Rob Jackson makes his way on this list is due to age. The linebacker will turn 29 in the middle of the season next year, and one could try to make a case that his track record of playmaking ability could warrant top dollar for just a season.

But reminding yourself that Jackson's position is expected to net somewhere close to $11 million this offseason, attempting to still make your case just became near impossible. 

Bringing Jackson back should be on the Redskins' to-do list. But like other linebackers on the team set to become free agents, it has to be at a fair price. A number close to $11 million is far from fair. 

Should the Redskins Use the Franchise Tag?

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In order for a team to successfully use the NFL's franchise tag, the stars need to align and circumstances need to be just right. And in the case of the Redskins this season, the only player to somewhat fall into that category is tight end Fred Davis—who ironically was not only the last Redskins player to be signed using the franchise tag back in 2012, but also the only Redskins player to play in Washington after receiving it

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