If the Redskins want to keep pending free agent linebacker Brian Orakpo around they are going to have to either negotiate a contract with him or hit him with the franchise tag.
We know that the franchise tag will cost right around $10.9 million for the 2014 season. It’s harder to figure out what a long-term contract might cost but it probably would be in that same neighborhood of $11 million per year.
The numbers have some fans complaining that the Redskins will be paying Orakpo “elite” money even though he’s not an elite player. They might be right about Orakpo not being elite; he’s probably in the second tier below the very best pass rushers in the game. But $10.9 million for one season is not elite money.
I pulled up the contracts of some of the elite (some actually formerly elite) pass rushers, both 3-4 outside linebackers and 4-3 defensive ends. Here are some of the top contracts based on average annual value:
- Mario Williams $16 million (6 years/$96 million)
- Julius Peppers $14.0 million (6 /$84 million)
- Clay Matthews $13.2 million (5/$66 million)
- Charles Johnson $12.7 million (6/$76 million)
- Jared Allen $12.2 million (6/$73 million)
- Chris Long $12.0 million (4/$48 million)
- Tamba Hali $11.5 million (5/$57.5 million)
- DeMarcus Ware $11.1 million (7/$79 million)
- Calais Campbell $11 million (5/$55 million)
- Terrell Suggs $10.4 million (6/$62.5 million)
- LaMarr Woodley $10.25 million (6/$61.5 million)
So if the Redskins tag Orakpo for a 2014 salary of $10.9 million there would be nine pass rushers who are making more money and the one of the top of the heap would be making $5.1 million more than him. Only under the most liberal definition of “elite” could you describe the contract that way.
The other thing you have to consider when looking at the franchise tag for Orakpo is that it’s a one-year deal. Annual compensation is usually lower in a long-term deal than it is in a one-year deal because of the security that a multiyear contract offers.
You could point out that Orakpo shouldn’t make more than Suggs, who was the 2011 defensive player of the year. Perhaps, but it should be noted that Suggs’ deal contained a whopping $38.1 million in guaranteed money. A franchise tag guarantees the money for that season only.