Friday, December 20, 2013
Redskins need to keep Orakpo
By John Keim
ASHBURN, Va. -- This shouldn't be Brian Orakpo's last home game as a Washington Redskins player. If the organization is smart they'll find a way to keep him around.
The problem is, they run a 3-4 scheme which needs pass rushers. It's difficult to find pass rushers. They don't have a first-round pick. And Orakpo is a good player.
The Redskins would have a difficult time replacing Brian Orakpo.
Oh, and the Redskins' defense can't afford to lose good players. In case you haven't noticed, there aren't a lot of them on the field. It would just be creating yet another need.
Debating whether Orakpo is an elite rusher or player is one thing. He thinks he is and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday that Orakpo is equivalent to guys like Robert Mathis or Robert Quinn, both of whom have more sacks but are not asked to do as much in other parts of the game.
Green Bay's Clay Matthews signed a contract extension last spring, with $20.5 million guaranteed. Orakpo has 39.5 career sacks in 63 games; Matthews has 49 sacks in 68 games. Orakpo has had two double-digit sack seasons, one less than Matthews.
"He rushes every time on third down or nickel, but he does drop into coverage," Haslett said of Orakpo. "He's really good in the run -- I think him and [linebacker] Ryan [Kerrigan] are two of the best I've been around at covering people, so I don't think it's fair. He's not a true four-down lineman. Now, that being said, there's other guys that have made that transition to a down lineman and they're not that successful because it's hard to do it every single snap. It's a little bit of a different breed down there."
Haslett was then asked if he considered Orakpo comparable to others who are considered elite.
"Yeah, I would," Haslett said. "The guy is a heck of a player and I think he showed what he's worth to this organization over the four years. He's been very successful, obviously he's a heck of a rush guy, but the other things he does besides that, he's outstanding, you know, covering tight ends and backs to the flat and in the run game. Him and Ryan are the reason we're so successful in the run. It's hard to get outside because of those two."
Now, a defensive boss typically will say great things about a player like Orakpo. He knows it can help him get paid. I've talked to personnel guys in the past who thought Orakpo was a good, but not great, pass rusher. But I do know he's better than Paul Kruger, who was the top free-agent outside linebacker in 2013 and received nearly $13 million in bonus money and $20 million guaranteed. His average per year is a little more than $8 million.
But again, you have to weigh the cost of his departure. Do you have a replacement signed for 2014? No, you don't. Rob Jackson is a free agent as well but is not as good as Orakpo. Yes, he'd be cheaper, but in a passing league you need to invest in pass rushers. Jackson is fine if Orakpo's price tag becomes exorbitant (and if it impairs the Redskins' ability to retain other free agents and add others) or if he just wants to go (that's not the case).
It also will depend on whether a new coach -- if Mike Shanahan is fired -- runs a 3-4 or 4-3 and how a new staff views him, of course. How would Orakpo do as a 4-3 end? He'd probably have to gain a little weight, but when he came out of Texas, opinions were split as to whether he should be a 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker.
Orakpo is not a superstar, but he would be tough to replace. It'll cost the Redskins a lot of money, but it could just be the cost of doing business.
It could just be that they can't afford to lose him.