Has Brian Orakpo proven himself?
"I have to prove myself again, huh?" Orakpo said on Monday on the subject of the possibility of signing a long-term contract extension. "I don't have to prove myself to anybody. I'm already proven in this league. I don't have to prove anything to anybody. That goes for fans, that goes for media. Anybody. I'm well-proven in this league. If it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out, but I don't have to prove anything to anybody."
Orakpo is currently tagged as the Redskins’ franchise player. He has signed his tender, essentially a one-year, $11.45 million contract that is fully guaranteed. But he wants a long-term contract and the Redskins appear to be in no hurry to give him what he wants.
"I wouldn't mind letting him play out this franchise tag and see what happens,” Jay Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings last month.
But is Orakpo a “proven” commodity? That depends on your definition of the word. He’s certainly shown that he is a very capable starter and a well-rounded 3-4 outside linebacker. That, however, is not what Orakpo means by “proven” in this context. He is talking about money and deserving to be one of the best-paid pass rushers in the game.
There, the case is shaky. Orakpo has 39.5 sacks since he came into the league in 2009. A total of 21 players have more sacks in that time span. Orakpo did miss almost all of the 2012 season with an injury but others ahead of him on the sacks list like Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs also have missed substantial time with injuries.
Mario Williams is the top-paid defensive end in the game with a deal that averages $16 million per year. Clay Matthews is at the top of the heap among outside linebackers with a contract averaging $13.2 million per year. We don’t know what Orakpo is asking for in a long-term deal but it’s probably in the neighborhood of what those two are making.
Williams, Matthews, and Orakpo have all played between 65 and 70 games since 2009. Orakpo has 39.5 sacks, Williams has 46 and Matthews has 60. The difference in impact is about more than just sacks. In 2013 Orakpo got his first interception and scored his first career touchdown. He has forced six fumbles. Matthews has four career picks with two touchdowns, 10 forced fumbles, and a fumble return for a touchdown on his résumé. Williams has 14 forced fumbles.
I would think that the Redskins agree that Orakpo has proven himself to be worthy of the 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft and deserving of a contract extension. The disagreement is over how much that extension is worth.
Bruce Allen was asked about the possibility of keeping the tandem of Orakpo and left outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan together in the long term. "We like Ryan and Rak together and we think they have the possibility of being a great tandem for years to come,” he said.
That doesn’t sound like a very strong commitment coming from the man who will decide if Orakpo gets his long-term deal in Washington.