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Why Re-Signing Brian Orakpo Should Be Top Priority for the Redskins Offseason

A look at the importance of retaining Brian Orakpo this offseason as the Redskins look to rebuild.

Rob Carr

The Redskins will have any number of personnel decisions to make this offseason. Between who stays, who goes, who to sign, who to trade, etc. The easiest of these offseason decisions (outside of maybe a few cuts) is the re-signing of outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.

Possible Brian Orakpo Contract Extension Breakdown

Now Orakpo for some odd reason isn't held in as high a regard by local fans as he is by pundits and the rest of the league. This seems to be a result from Orakpo not having the most gaudy sack numbers (38 in 61 games). While Orakpo hasn't put up Demarcus Ware type of sack numbers, he's led the team in sacks every year but last season when he was injured in Week 2. He's also done so despite not having the same opportunities as the top sack leaders in the league.

According to Pro Football Focus's numbers Orakpo in his full seasons, has rushed the quarterback the following number of times: His number of sacks in those seasons are noted next to it. *note PFF counts half sacks as full sacks since the player got to the quarterback and did his job. He shouldn't be penalized because someone else did theirs as well.

2013: 313 - 9

2011: 390 - 10

2010: 431 - 8

2009: 341 - 12

Total: 1,475 pass rush attempts, 39 sacks for a sack rate of 2.6%

Now that sounds awful but consider the following:

DeMarcus Ware (2009-2012)- 1,995 pass rush attempts,  60 sacks, for a sack rate of 3.1%

Terrell Suggs (2009-2011, 2013)- 1,883 pass rush attempts, 39 sacks, for a sack rate of 2.1%

Tamba Hali (2009-2012) - 1,856 pass rush attempts, 48 sacks, for a sack rate of 2.6%

Jared Allen (2009-2012) - 2,381 pass rush attempts, 60 sacks, for a sack rate of 2.5%

Clay Matthews Jr (2009-2012) - 1,675 pass rush attempts, 43 sacks,  for a sack rate of 2.6%

Cameron Wake (2010-2013) - 1,799 pass rush attempts, 49 sacks, for a sack rate of 2.7%

Chris Long (2010-2013) - 2,038 pass rush attempts, 41 sacks, for a sack rate of 2.0%

Elvis Dumervil (2009, 2011-2013) - 1,707 pass rush attempts, 52 sacks, for a sack rate of 3.0%

Mario Williams (2009-2010, 2012-2013) - 2,015 pass rush attempts, 45 sacks, for a sack rate of 2.2%

Ryan Kerrigan (2011-2013) - 1,380 pass rush attempts, 25 sacks, for a sack rate of 1.8%

That is a sampling of the best pass rushers in the NFL over the last 5 seasons (taking only 4 seasons to account for any missed years, which almost all of the rushers had one of), and Brian Orakpo is right at the top of that group on a per pass rush basis (which is what really matters). These are the premier pass rushers in the NFL, most of whom have had at least one 15 sack or more season, yet Orakpo is right in the midst of them. Though it's not broken down, Orakpo probably more than any other rusher on this list has faced off with team's left tackles for a higher percentage of rushes. Many of these other top rushers will move around more and see at least 20% of their rushes come against right tackles.

I included Ryan Kerrigan at the bottom of the list to show that while he's still a very good player, he's just not capable of producing on the level that Orakpo has produced on at this point. Especially since almost all of his pass rushes have come against right tackles.

While there is more than just sacks to being a good pass rusher, Orakpo has graded highly in causing pressures and forcing penalties such as offensive holding during his time in DC. Orakpo is the number one threat to opposing offenses, and a player that needs to be accounted for.

He plays the most important position on defense (ROLB or RE depending on the scheme) and is a guy that the Redskins couldn't easily replace. There aren't comparable pass rushers typically on the open market, and to find one in the draft you usually need a top 20 draft pick. The Redskins don't have a draft pick near that high, and it wouldn't make sense to pay for another free agent over just re-signing Orakpo.

Orakpo will be just 28 next season, meaning that he'll be 32 at the end of a 5 year contract. He should still be very productive at that age and is likely to be able to produce enough to justify his contract. Re-signing him to a 5 year deal, locks up a key piece for the Redskins defense and gives them someone to build around this offseason. Spending the money earmarked for him on another position would create a void in the defense that wouldn't be easy to fill.

Why not go the Franchise Tag Route?

One thing that gets mentioned quite a bit is the idea of using the Franchise tag as a way to avoid signing him to a long term extension and/or as a way to get Orakpo to "prove" that he deserves a long term deal. The problem is there is no upside for the Redskins to do that as they aren't a good fit for either scenario.

When you tag someone to avoid a long term deal, it is typically because a player is showing signs of his production is falling off and/or because the player is getting up there in age. Neither case applies to Orakpo. He's set to have perhaps his most productive year this season, and will be just 28 next year, still very much in the prime of his career. If the Redskins were to tag him for just one year and he had another similarly productive year, his contract demands would likely go up. Given that the Redskins aren't considered a top contending team next year this seems like a waste.

The whole "prove me" idea doesn't make sense either. Maybe you would have done it after last season when he was coming off a season ending injury and you wanted to see how he responded, but this year he's "proving" his worth each game. Over the last 4 games Orakpo has 5.5 sacks despite going up against quality left tackles like Matt Kalil, Jason Peters, Joe Staley and William Beatty (Beatty is having a down year, but overall is considered a good tackle). What more could you ask from Orakpo that would need proven next year? Yes if Orakpo gets injured or has a bad year you may save yourself some money long term (though you pay more for the right to do so next year), but if he's healthy and productive (something he's done now 80% of his career), than his price goes up long term.

Finally the negative of using the Franchise tag is it will definitely be a much greater cap hit than any extension could be for 2014. Yes the Redskins can afford it, but the tag value will likely be north of $11 million which could equal up to a quarter of the Redskins cap room after cuts. With an extension the Redskins can have his cap number $5-8 million, which is far more manageable for next year.