October 24, 2020

Brian Orakpo feels like he has nothing to prove to Washington Redskins

Redskins LB Brian Orakpo can only watch from sidelines in Week 2 loss to Rams. (Photo Courtesy of Brian Murphy)

Redskins LB Brian Orakpo can only watch from sidelines in Week 2 loss to Rams. (Photo Courtesy of Brian Murphy)

The deadline for franchise players to sign long-term deals has come and gone and Brian Orakpo’s future with the Washington Redskins remains uncertain. The franchise tag will keep him in D.C. for this season, but beyond that there is plenty of reason to wonder if Orakpo will remain here in the future.

Orakpo was a first-round draft pick in 2009 when he was selected by the Washington Redskins and is a three-time Pro Bowler. The problem, however, is money.

According to reports, Orakpo and the team were not close in their contract negotiations up until the signing deadline.

While Orakpo is a very good player, whether he is one of the league’s top linebackers remains debatable. Though the Washington Redskins are now on the hook for $11.45 million this year, clearly they are looking for more from Orakpo before committing to a long-term deal.

Orakpo of course believes there is nothing left to prove.

“I don’t have to prove myself to anybody,” he said in April after signing the franchise tender. “I’m already proven in the league. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. That goes for fans, that goes for media. Anybody.”

There is no denying he is a good player, but evidently he wants to be paid like one of the best. His statistics, however, show he may be one notch below those top-tier linebackers.

As an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, Orakpo’s primary responsibility is the pass rush. Yet, the 11 sacks he recorded in his rookie season remain his career best. His 10 sacks in 2013 were only good for 20th in the league and tied for sixth among outside linebackers. This is not the resume of a an ‘elite’ pass rusher.

To be fair, teams have double-teamed Orakpo in an attempt to slow him down, but the Washington Redskins attempted to address this by drafting another top outside linebacker in Ryan Kerrigan to put on the opposite side of the line.

Did it work? It’s hard to tell.

Not only did Orakpo play in just two games in the 2012 season after tearing his left pectoral muscle, but the rest of the defense was so deficient in 2013 that it seems unfair to judge Orakpo individually.

That’s why the team wanted to wait another year before committing several years; they don’t know if he is an elite linebacker hampered by a weak defense or a very good linebacker capable of about 10 sacks per season.

While he may think he has nothing to prove, the team clearly disagrees. This will be a make-or-break year for him.

The Washington Redskins have done everything they can to set Orakpo up for success. In addition to Kerrigan lining up on the opposite side, the team also drafted Trent Murphy who can be added as a third linebacker in some schemes. They also added defensive end Jason Hatcher, a top pass rusher in his own right with 11 sacks in 2013.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has vowed the pass rush will be better this year without the meddling of Mike Shanahan. These personnel moves at least show that it is a priority. Now, it’s just a matter of what Orakpo can do with it.

In terms of his future in Washington, unless he delivers his absolute best season, he does not have much leverage with the team.

The Washington Redskins are not just thinking of Orakpo’s next contract, but Kerrigan’s as well. Kerrigan’s current contract expires at the end of the 2015 season. He will be 27 and, like Orakpo, he will be looking for a big contract. Can the team afford $20-25 million per season on two players who play the same position? Probably not.

If Orakpo’s asking price remains higher than the team believes he is worth, then the focus will shift from re-signing him to re-signing Kerrigan.

The team also has a depth replacement in Murphy.

Murphy was taken by the Washington Redskins in the second round of this year’s draft. When a team takes a player that high, usually it is with the expectation that he can develop into a starter by his second year. Murphy was not drafted to be a perpetual backup, the team expects him to be a starter and they expect it to happen in the next one to two years.

Adding an eventual starter means the Washington Redskins anticpate losing either Orakpo or Kerrigan and are now prepared for that scenario. If Orakpo has a breakout season and shows the team he is too good to let go, the team will up their offer and pay him what he wants. If he has a season comparable to 2013, however, the team believes they have two other starters on the roster for 2015.

From Orakpo’s point of view, unless he plays terribly or has another injury-shortened season, there is no reason for him to lower his asking price. The Washington Redskins may not be willing to pay him what he wants, but if we have learned anything from free agency it is that teams will always overpay. Someone will inevitable be willing to pay Orakpo more than Washington.

For him to stay, he will either have to play so well as to convince the Washington Redskins that they have to keep him or play so badly (or get injured) that he has to lower his asking price. Otherwise, the Kerrigan/Murphy era will begin in 2015.


JJ Regan is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He is an aspiring sports journalist currently earning his master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and has his own website atregansports.com. He is also a digital freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Washington and Baltimore. JJ follows all D.C. sports but specializes in the Capitals. You can follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

About J.J. Regan

J.J. Regan is a contributor to District Sports Page. He also is a college football and NHL blogger for CSNwashington.com and CSNbaltimore.com and has a master's degree in interactive journalism from American University. Regan follows all DC sports but focuses mainly on the the Caps and college football. You can view his online portfolio at regansports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy.

Trackbacks

  1. […] fact is, we just don’t know. Most players will say it isn’t an issue, but if he truly feels like he has nothing left to prove he may just bide his time in Washington this year while he thinks about how many zeros and commas […]

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