Five thoughts: Brian Orakpo

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
8:00
AM ET
A few thoughts on Brian Orakpo as the franchise tag deadline arrives Monday:

1. I don’t know whether he’ll receive a franchise tag or not (the deadline is 4 p.m.). I do know that there has been a split opinion in the organization on what they should do with him, as I’ve written a couple times. Others have as well. There’s no doubt the coaches would like him back; they don’t have to pay him. They like what Orakpo brings and realize that it’s not easy to find consistent pass-rushers. But the business side knows that it’s tough to pay an $11.5 million tag fee to one player when the needs – and holes – are many. It’s the same debate many are having. I can’t imagine the transition tag being used. It would save the Redskins around $1.5 million over the franchise tag, but you get no compensation if he leaves, though the Redskins have seven days to match any offer. I can’t imagine another team surrendering two first-round picks if he received a non-exclusive franchise tag.

Orakpo
2. I’m with a lot of you who have a hard time paying Orakpo, say, $11 million because of his lack of game-changing plays: six forced fumbles and one interception in his career. I also think if you’re going to overpay someone, it might as well be one of your own – they know what he can do in their system; they’ll have to guess what someone else might do – and pay them a good chunk of change. Even if you wanted to convert Oakland’s Lamarr Houston (a very strong player) to a 3-4 linebacker, he’ll be coveted by other teams as a 4-3 end or even tackle. So you’ll have to pay bigger for him than initially desired. I also know Orakpo is not irreplaceable. The Redskins under general manager Bruce Allen have not chased the big name (for a variety of reasons); will they re-sign one?

3. One argument I dislike: Orakpo only finished strong because of his contract. Well, if that’s the case, then what happened to Perry Riley? Brandon Meriweather? Josh Morgan? Fred Davis? All those players were entering the last year of their contract and ... did... nothing. Or they ended up suspended. Orakpo finished with 10 sacks, right about the average for his four full seasons. He finished with stats he usually does. Had he posted unusual numbers then you could write it off as a contract drive perhaps. But when others on your team are playing poorly and you do what you’ve always done? Find another argument. Orakpo has always played hard.

4. The same is true of this line: The Redskins won the division without Orakpo and lost 13 games with him, therefore the Redskins should let him walk. Yes, that’s true, they did win without him. Meanwhile, the offensive line that everyone wants replaced was part of an offense that set a franchise record for yards per play in 2012 and won the division. Be consistent with the arguments. In a team game it’s tough to pin a record on one guy. Maybe if others had finished as strong as Orakpo, the Redskins would not have finished 3-13. Again, that’s not to say you therefore must pay Orakpo huge money, but this argument just isn’t a great one. Buffalo lost a lot of games with safety Jairus Byrd; a lot of Redskins fans want him. If you don’t think Orakpo is good, that’s fine. Just say that. But the win-loss record is not a good stat. In 2012, Carolina lost nine games with defensive end Greg Hardy and his 11 sacks. The Panthers won 12 with his 15 sacks this past season. Not comparing Orakpo and Hardy, but just further burying that won-loss nonsense.

5. This interview from December should remind you of Orakpo’s mindset as free agency approaches. Losing Orakpo will not doom the Redskins to a bad season, nor does signing him mean they’ll win. They have so many needs and therein lies the rub. If they let Orakpo walk, they can use that money to fill other holes – and they’ll also be creating a big one. The Redskins know this.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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