Updates from Monday, April 28
At Trump National GC for The Brian Orakpo Leukemia Golf Classic. Coach Jay Gruden said Orakpo may need to prove himself on franchise deal.— Zac Boyer (@ZacBoyer) April 28, 2014
Brian Orakpo's response: "I don’t have to prove myself to anybody. I’m already proven in this league."— Zac Boyer (@ZacBoyer) April 28, 2014
Orakpo still wants a long-term deal, "but I’m not gonna be in a situation where I’m holding out and all the distractions that come with it."— Zac Boyer (@ZacBoyer) April 28, 2014
Brian Orakpo: "I’m well-proven in this league, and if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out."— Zac Boyer (@ZacBoyer) April 28, 2014
Updates from Wednesday, April 16
Brian Orakpo spoke about the possibility of a long-term deal with the Redskins (via Tarik El-Bashir of CSN Washington):
Brian Orakpo says he'd be disappointed if #Redskins didn't sign him to a long term extension before July 15 deadline for franchised players.— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) April 16, 2014
More Orakpo: "I'm here for my teammates and I'm going to go out there and work extremely hard. Hopefully I can continue my career [here]."— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) April 16, 2014
Orakpo also indicated that talks on a potential extension are moving slowly.— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) April 16, 2014
Updates from Thursday, March 27
The Redskins posted an image on Twitter of Brian Orakpo signing his tender:
Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com provided financial details:
#Redskins Orakpo press release says terms “not disclosed”. They’re really public information, one year, $11.45 million, fully guaranteed.— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) March 27, 2014
Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com followed with a statement from Orakpo discussing his decision to sign the tender:
Orakpo said he signed the franchise tag tender because, "I didn't want to be a distraction."— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) March 27, 2014
Orakpo also made it clear that he still wants a long term extension. Sides just couldn't find "middle ground."— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) March 27, 2014
Orakpo also said w/ the addition of Jason Hatcher, opposing teams will have to "pick and chose." #RedskinsTalk— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) March 27, 2014
The Washington Redskins and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo couldn't agree to terms on a new long-term contract, but the organization avoided the potential mistake of letting the 27-year-old veteran hit the open market as a free agent.
Orakpo received the franchise tag designation Monday, the Redskins revealed via their Twitter account:
Although it's only a short-term commitment, it at least buys Washington time to strike a long-term deal with Orakpo while seeing if he is capable of sustaining the high level of play he showed last year coming off a major injury. There is at least some schism going on with regard to how Orakpo is perceived internally.
In a report by The Washington Post's Mike Jones and Mark Maske on Saturday, sources said the organization wasn't unanimously behind Orakpo before the decision was made to bring him back:
According to several people familiar with the situation, the Redskins like Orakpo as a player and ideally would prefer to keep him. But there have been differing views within the organization, according to those sources, about the wisdom of either using the franchise player tag or pursing an expensive long-term contract with Orakpo when that money and salary cap space instead could be used to address other needs. “I think there’s a lot of back and forth on it,” said one person with knowledge of the team’s deliberations. “I don’t think it’s clear cut.”
Jones and Maske point out how the Redskins had until Monday's ultimatum to decide whether to tag Orakpo, who's slated to make $11.455 million this season with the designation.
Maske is reporting that Orakpo was given the non-exclusive tag by the Redskins:
The Redskins used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Orakpo.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 3, 2014
Jones also spoke about how Orakpo will push to be tagged as a defensive end:
.@thejintsman Orakpo rushes as a DE on many passing downs. His camp will argue for DE, I was told.— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) March 3, 2014
While Orakpo pushes to be tagged as a defensive end, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com is reporting that he won't rush to sign the agreement:
What is next for #Redskins pass-rusher Brian Orakpo? I’m told he has no plans to sign the franchise tag as of now. May be a while.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 3, 2014
Orakpo later commented on the move (via Josina Anderson of ESPN):
"I'm excited to continue to play football. I'm glad we've made the first step, but hopefully we can still get things done in the long run.
I don't have a problem with the decision (the Washington Redskins) made, but I still want a long-term deal. This is new to me. I'm just letting this play out to the end. I'm excited to be with the Redskins as of right now, but now we will go from here. It's always good to try and finish up with the team that drafted you. However, it is a business and I understand the business. If it works out then it works out. At the very least I'm happy they took this step forward."
On whether he should be tagged as a LB or DE?
"I can't really comment on that right now."
Doubts clearly seem to linger about Orakpo after the extensive deliberation, since the Redskins didn't come to an agreement on a multiyear deal. All parties involved should be pleased, however, because Orakpo still gets a hefty payday, and Washington will either keep him or receive two first-round picks if it doesn't match another team's offer for him.
Redskins analyst Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan in D.C. suggested franchise tagging Orakpo was the right move before the deal went down. Paulsen implied that letting Orakpo go would be a mistake and that he deserves the big contract if he plays well enough in 2014:
If I'm the #Redskins: I'd franchise tag (1yr, $11.5M) on Brian Orakpo. Can't afford to let him walk. Make him ball out again to break bank.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) March 1, 2014
New head coach Jay Gruden's expertise is on offense, so losing such a big contributor to the other side of the ball would be a big blow to the beginning of his tenure.
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora was convinced Orakpo would hit free agency on March 11, which makes the tag all the more critical—even if it wasn't fulfilling Orakpo's wishes:
Given how the sides aren't close to hammering anything out, either, I'd expect Orakpo to hit the market March 11 and do quite well— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 1, 2014
A torn pectoral muscle suffered in his third game of 2012 held Orakpo out for the rest of that year when the Redskins won the NFC East title. Aided by a time-of-possession-dominant rushing attack and the energy new quarterback Robert Griffin III brought to the team, Washington's defense thrived even in Orakpo's absence.
But when Griffin went down in the playoffs and came back perhaps too early from rehabbing his knee for the beginning of 2013, all momentum vanished, and the defense looked lost for much of the recent 3-13 2013 campaign, with Orakpo as one of the few bright spots.
Is this the right move for Washington?
What makes Orakpo so valuable isn't just limited to his pass-rushing ability. He sports the athleticism to drop into coverage, has the instincts to diagnose plays and stops the run well enough to be on the field for all downs. That's a big reason why he was named to his third Pro Bowl this past season, racking up a career-best 60 combined tackles while registering 10 sacks and his first career interception.
Thus, it's hard to blame Washington for making Orakpo such a big priority this offseason. He's one of the few draft products in recent memory that has actually worked out for the team, and he's been portrayed as an emotional leader and a key cog in the defense.
Orakpo has been a rock amid a period of perpetual instability with the Redskins, who have changed head coaches eight times since owner Daniel Snyder took over the franchise in 1999. Poor drafting, terrible trades and overspending in free agency have all contributed at one time or another to the bad on-field product.
With the help of Griffin, hope had been somewhat restored until last year's disaster that led to Mike Shanahan getting fired. What's promising is that Orakpo tuned out distractions and remained focused in a contract year. Even though he wasn't rewarded for it quite like he'd like to have been, he still gets a new lease on his time in Washington and should prove himself with another stellar campaign in 2014.