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Why the Redskins will have Orakpo play on the tag this year

Why the Redskins will have Orakpo play on the tag this year

Brian Orakpo signed his franchise tender this morning. He has until July 15 to work out a long-term contract with the Redskins. If he doesn’t, he will have to play the year making $11.45 million (every dime of it is now guaranteed) and become a free agent again in 2015.

It seems that the latter scenario is much more likely than a long-term deal. Jay Gruden said as much on Wednesday.

“We’d like to get him here for as many years as we can, but right now I wouldn’t mind letting him play out this franchise tag and see what happens,” Gruden said at the NFL owners meeting in Orlando. He’s a talented player. I think he can do a little bit better.”

So Gruden wants to see more out of Orakpo before giving him the big deal that every player wants. That’s a football reason to wait on locking up the team’s first-round pick in the 2009 draft. There are other reasons:

—Orakpo will be 28 shortly after the start of training camp. He is in excellent shape but, as we all know, Father Time is undefeated. Usually the bigger salaries in a five-year contract come in the later years, just when Orakpo turns 30. Although he could well still be productive, the Redskins would likely be paying him escalating salaries in a time when his skills are beginning to decline.

—Signing Orakpo for five years would almost certainly mean the end of Ryan Kerrigan as a Redskin after the 2015 season. This is the last year of his rookie deal and then the team will almost certainly exercise a one-year option that will keep him around through 2015 for a salary of about $5 million. Then he will be a free agent in 2016. You don’t have to be a master capologist to figure out that you can’t have two premium contracts at the same position without running into serious cap trouble. Kerrigan generally doesn’t post as many sacks as Orakpo but he has more big plays like touchdowns and forced on his resume. The team doesn’t want to be in the position of being forced to let Kerrigan, who will be entering his age 28 season in 2016, walk because are obligated to pay Orakpo who, as noted, will be turning 30.

—There is no indication that Orakpo's camp and the Redskins are anywhere close on money. There were reports that the two sides were not close when the tag was applied on March 10 and nothing has happened in the interim that would change that enough to let them "meet in the middle", as Orakpo said.

—They will have the option of tagging him again next year. If Orakpo rushes the passer more often, as both Gruden and Jim Haslett have promised he will, and gets, say, 15 sacks, his market value will skyrocket. But the Redskins know exactly what it will cost them to keep him in Washington for another year. It would be 120 percent of what he is making this year or about $13.75 million. That’s a fairly hefty salary cap hit but the cap is likely to increase by about $8-$10 million next year so it can be absorbed.

It’s easy to say, “pay the man” and you can argue that Orakpo “deserves” to get a long-term deal. But the way the NFL salary cap works, paying one man often means that you can’t pay another man. There are choices to be made and the Redskins may well choose to keep Orakpo around for only one or two more years.

 

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 24, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 41
—NFL Draft (4/26) 92
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 228

Fan questions—Surprise cuts, finding a playmaker

I put out a call for questions on social media and I got so many good ones that I’m splitting them up. Here are Facebook questions today and I’ll hit the best Twitter questions later this week.

 

Spencer Long could be gone but he is a free agent, so he could not be cut. As far as players under contract, a lot will depend on who they draft and sign in free agency. If they go heavy on the defensive line, Ziggy Hood and Terrell McClain could be in danger of being cut. An influx of defensive back might have Josh Holsey and Deshazor Everett headed out of town.

There won’t be any cuts that save a major amount of cap space. Thek players with the top 15 cap numbers per Over the Cap are all vital to the operation with the possible aforementioned exception of McClain.

The rub is that if you want an instant “bona fide” playmaker you are going to have to invest either a lot of cap dollars or high draft pick. They have invested cap dollars in Reed and, to a lesser extent, Thompson and a No. 1 draft pick in Reed. The plan needs to be to make sure that Reed stays healthy (as best you can) and hope you get 12-14 productive games out of him, get Thompson back in the swing of things, and continue to work with Doctson. Perhaps they can get a mid-round find like the Saints did with Kamara to add to the mix. But for the most part, the Redskins will have to make do with what they have.

The way things stand right now, I’m seeing Vea regarded as more of a late first-round pick than a player who should go in the top half of the round. That could change as the draft process goes on. I think the Redskins need to continue to strengthen their defensive line and if Vea moves up to a high first-round grade or slides to a second they should take a long look at him.

The player I’m keeping my eye on is Jordan Matthews, who spent three years with the Eagles before being trade to Buffalo. He had over 800 yards receiving in each of his three seasons in Philly before a knee injury hampered him last year. He’s 6-3 and still young (26 in Week 1). Sammy Watkins of the Rams is intriguing but he had just 593 receiving yards in 15 games in a Sean McVay’s very productive offense. An older but less expensive option might be Eric Decker of the Titans, who had just 30 fewer receiving yards than Watkins and would be much a much less expensive acquisition albeit as a stopgap.

I see them addressing other needs in the first round. That could change if there is someone there who is just too good to pass up.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

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