With less than 24 hours remaining until the first practice the Washington Redskins have yet to sign their top draft pick, Brian Orakpo.
There has been no public negotiating which generally is a good sign. Michael Crabtree, the Texas Tech receiver taken at No. 10 is demanding top-three money, and that’s not sitting well with the 49ers' management.
But no news isn’t necessarily good news. It would indicate that there is a waiting game going on involving the slotting system.
Rookie contracts generally are based on slots. Basically, a player get a little more money than the player drafted immediately after him and a bit less than the one take right before him. This “system”, such as it is, relies on slots getting filled so that there is a basis for comparison at a given spot.
As of right now, though, there isn’t a slot to determine Orakpo’s deal; in fact it’s not even close. He’s in the middle of a gulf. The Texas defensive end/linebacker was taken with the 13th selection of the first round.
On the higher side, the closest pick signed is Mark Sanchez, taken fifth overall. In addition to being eight picks away, Sanchez is a quarterback. They get the chicks and make more dough, so his deal is not a good basis for comparison.
On the low side is center Alex Mack, taken at No. 21 by Cleveland. So we’re looking at eight slots on that end. Orakpo is the man in the middle.
There is another way of getting this done. Mack got a deal that was 12 percent higher than that of the player taken 21st in 2008. The Redskins and Orakpo’s agents, Ben Dogra and Michael Lartigue of CAA, could look at the contract signed by Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart last year and add 12 percent to that.
The result would be a five-year contract worth about $15.6 million. Start there, build in a few incentives, call it a deal, and get Orakpo out on the practice field.
This would serve the team and the player well, but the agents will be hesitant of getting burned. God forbid the 12th pick and/or the 14th pick get deals 13 percent higher than last year.
The reputations of Dorga and Lartigue would suffer (from their point of view, anyway), they would stand to be accused of leaving money on the table, and they believe they will have trouble lining up first-rounders in the future.
So, the waiting game continues. If Orakpo misses Thursday and Friday it won’t damage his development to any great extent. But I’ll bet you that by Friday, Greg Blache or another defensive coach will be lamenting his absence and saying that each lost day is like missing two days. Sometimes that’s just coach speak but in this case, with Orakpo being counted on to man two positions, it’s not too far from the truth.
It could be worse. The Washington Redskins could be having trouble getting a sixth-round pick into camp as the San Diego Chargers are. And they hardly are alone, with only five of the 32 first-round picks having inked contracts as of Wednesday morning. Still, it would be good to get the guy they’re counting on so much into the fray as soon as possible.
Rich Tandler is the author of the new book The Redskins Chronicle, a Journey Through the History of the Redskins 1945-2008. You can find the details of this unique book at www.RedskinsChronicle.com. Tandler also has the longest-running Redskins blog on the internet at RealRedskins.com.