2013 was a year of irony for Washington Redskins left outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. In 2012, Orakpo suffered a torn right triceps injury that ended his season after the first two games. He rebounded strongly in 2013, leading the Redskins in sacks with 10 and returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown in a 45-41 Week 7 victory over the Chicago Bears. Orakpo was one of the few bright spots on a Redskins’ defense that still hasn’t grasped the concept of consistently stopping opposing defenses. He was rewarded for his efforts with a 2013 Pro Bowl selection
Last season was the final year of Orakpo’s contract, which probably explains his great 2013 season. Nevertheless, Orakpo has the opportunity to test the free agent market. Washington has until Mar. 3 to place the franchise tag on Orakpo at $11.455 million. That number is a significant chunk of the $30 million that the Redskins will have for other free agents. Simply put, the Redskins can’t afford to attract key free agents to Washington with only $18 million to spend.
Last year, I maintained that the Redskins need to extend Orakpo’s contract. I still stand by that assertion. Orakpo, along with cornerback DeAngelo Hall, was one of the few consistent commodities on the Redskins’ defense. Proven playmakers are few and far between on the Redskins’ roster as their 3-13 record in 2013 would indicate. At 27, Orakpo is in the prime of his career. He’s also earned 39.5 sacks in his five-year career, and could have earned more if he hadn’t been injured. That reaffirms Orakpo should be rewarded for his service on some mostly bad Redskins teams.
Washington’s defense has plenty of holes to fill. Considering the franchise’s limited 2014 draft selections, signing key free agent defensive players would seem to be the route to take. However, the Redskins have a history of signing free agent busts who were only concerned with the seemingly deep pockets of team owner Daniel M. Snyder. The consistently poor recent history of the franchise (sorry, but I refuse to factor in the 2012 playoff team) brings me to the conclusion that Washington isn’t a prime destination for top free agents.
It sounds ridiculous to use so much of their 2014 salary cap funds on Orakpo, but he has proven to be a solid performer for Washington when healthy. The Redskins’ limited 2014 draft selections are the growing pains they must endure as a result of past poor decisions. In addition, there’s no guarantee that key defensive free agents would want to play in Washington, considering the team’s disastrous 2013 season. But Orakpo is a guy the Redskins can build around on defense, and they should start by giving him the money he deserves.