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Monday, February 17, 2014
Experts' take: What to do with Orakpo?

By John Keim

The Redskins face numerous questions this offseason. Too many to mention, perhaps. But there are a number that can be addressed and answered -- with the help of people who know the game much better than me. So all week I'll pose a different question to two experts -- former NFL executive, player and scout Louis Riddick (now an ESPN NFL Insider) and former NFL and college scout Matt Williamson (now ESPN's NFL scout). These also are the sort of discussions that are taking place at Redskins Park.  And you'll see that even smart football men won't have the same opinion on a player or situation. The most talked-about Redskin this offseason has been linebacker Brian Orakpo. Naturally, that's where we'll start this series.

What would you do with Brian Orakpo?

Louis Riddick: It’s interesting. He’ll be a tough comparable for me right now, only because of not knowing exactly what they were asking him to do from an assignment perspective, and not being on the inside, I don’t know if I’m seeing the whole story with him. I read and heard that he thinks he can have a lot more production in the pass rush, whether it’s QB hits or hurries or sacks if he had more freedom, but that he was trying to play within the confines of the defense. But at the same time, just watching him as a one-on-one pass-rusher, would I value him as a top five or top 10 pass-rusher in the league? No, I don’t think I would do that. Let’s put it this way: Greg Hardy, Robert Mathis, Robert Quinn, DeMarcus Ware, when healthy. I don’t put [Orakpo] in that category. He’s somewhere in that second tier and I’m saying because of supply and demand being where it’s at, he could wind up – if he hits the market – getting something that far exceeds what I’m comfortable paying him.

There’s not a number for how I would value him. It’s going to be tricky. Would I want to keep him? Yes. Would I want to extend above and beyond and get him into the nose-bleed area for guaranteed money in the first three years? No, I would not. ... I’d be very prepared to let him walk. That being said, there aren’t a lot of good pass-rushers available in free agency and there aren’t a lot of guys who will win one-on-ones early in their career in the draft so that will work in his favor.

Matt Williamson: That defense needs everything, it really does. He’s their best player on defense, they have a lot of cap room, they can’t let him go. He’s one of the few free agents that you have to give the big money to. If that means franchising him, I think he’s worth it. He’s an all-around player. He’s their best pass-rusher, probably one of the best 10 pass-rushers in the league in his prime and he recovered from his injury. I thought he had a good year. He was a constant pressure guy. He’s a quick-twitch athlete who can get low and still be powerful. He explodes off the ball and he’s a high-motor guy. I don’t think he’ll be elite. He won’t be Dwight Freeney in his prime, and if you looked at his strengths and weaknesses as a pass-rusher, he’s not extreme in any of them but he’s above average in many. Freeney was so low and explosive off the snap, you always remember those things with him. Orakpo doesn’t have one trait that you say, ‘Wow, I’ve got to stop that.’