Will the Redskins use the franchise tag on Brian Orakpo?
The pending free agent linebacker is headed to his third Pro Bowl in five years in the league. He is coming off of perhaps his best all-around season since he entered the league in 2009. Orakpo is not a truly dominant pass rusher but he’s one of the better ones out there and since pass defense starts with pass rush and it’s a passing league teams will be willing to pay Orakpo very well for his services.
If the Redskins think that the bidding for Orakpo could get out of hand, including a scenario where a team with a ton of cap space like the Raiders or Jaguars swoops in and puts a huge deal on the table for him, the franchise tag would be an option for them.
The exact amount of the franchise tag tender for linebackers can’t be determined until the 2014 salary cap is set but it is expected to be in the neighborhood of $11 million.
That is a pretty hefty amount. Does Orakpo deserve to make about as much as the likes of Terrell Suggs ($12.4 million in 2014), Tamba Hali ($11.5 million), and Clay Matthews ($11.1 million) and more than NFL sack leader Robert Mathis ($8.75 million)? Probably not but that doesn’t mean that the Redskins should not consider the franchise tag for him.
The upside for the team is that it gives them flexibility. It’s a one-year deal. If Orakpo has a down year due to injury or other reasons the team will not be stuck with a big contract going forward. The team can see how he does in 2014 and then decide if they want to sign or franchise him in 2015. Tagging Orakpo for the second straight year would cost the higher of the tender amount for that year or 120 percent of his 2014 earnings ($13.2 million).
One disadvantage of using the tag is that all of the salary is charged to that season’s cap. An $11 million hit would eat up about a third of the Redskins’ available space, leaving them with less to address their myriad of other needs. A long-term deal could be structured to take up less cap space in the early seasons.
While getting tagged in back to back years is not what most players want, it might not be a bad deal for Orakpo. He would get over $24 million over two years, just under the average per year that Matthews is getting on the extension he signed last year. The downside for him is the lack of security. If he doesn’t play well enough in 2014 to warrant getting tagged again he likely will end up signing a smaller deal than he would be able to get this year.
But it’s not up to Orakpo; the CBA puts that decision in the hands of the team. They have some time so figure it out. They can designate a franchise player as early February 17 and the deadline is March 3. If they do tag Orakpo the two sides would have until July 15 to agree on a long-term contract. After that Orakpo will have to play out the season under the tag.