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Should Orakpo be paid like an ‘elite’ pass rusher?

Feb 12, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT


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.

  1. darrynhyman - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    Said it before….it’s too much cap space to give up for a solid, but not great player, on a team that has so many needs. If he was one of the final pieces for us to make a run, then yes, you franchise him and give him the 10.9. But, we are pretty bare on the talent front, so that 10.9 could be used in may other places. I roll the dice with a Jackson/Jenkins combo and I am confident they can either match or come very close to Orakpo’s 10 sacks. Try to address it in the draft either this year or next if Jackson/Jenkins can’t get it done. Don’t cripple ourselves for the future with overpaying ‘okay’ players. Would Pitts, NE, or Phil give Orakpo 11 mil….probably not, because they have the next man up who will get paid a fraction of that and still be productive

    • joeregotti - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      I agree!. Well said! We could use that money on a “elite” safety and a cornerback. I would much rather upgrade our secondary with the money we would spend on Orakpo’s 10 sacks (3 against Matt Flynn and the Raiders)

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      You hit the nail right on the head at the end there. NE, Pitt, etc might not pay Orakpo because they have been drafting and developing for years and are likely to have a ready replacement. The Redskins, on the other hand, have been botching the draft, especially on defense. Have to pay Rak to pay for past sins.

      And, no, Jax/Jenkins is not an adequate replacement. not even close. Don’t fool yourself.

      • ordiggs - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        Rich that’s why you r a blogger Rich because u, Chris Russell are on Gilligans Island, the is about player dev not operating out of fear. Smart NFL owners don’t pay 10/12 million for average players, and people who have a brain can see Orakpo is not worth 10.9 mil. So you would rather cripple the franchise for year out of fear Orakpo might be elite in the future, this is logic. You have people who played the game, big time Hall of famers stating he is not worth it. Let him walk if some idiot owner pays him 10/12 million god bless him, but the skins are following the Pete Carroll model, draft well, along with FA and most important player Development !!!

        • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:27 PM

          First, welcome. Second, I edited out the “r” word. The other Redskins beat guy you mentioned has a child with Down’s syndrome and that word doesn’t get used around here out of respect for him and others in similar situation.

          Third, not sure where your football credentials come from, perhaps you can enlighten me since you see fit to take a shot at mine. I’m much closer to Redskins Park than Gilligan’s Island, by the way.

          Finally, who are the “big time Hall of Famers” who say Orakpo isn’t worth it? I assume you have direct quotes as those of us here on Gilligan’s Island do when we make such a claim.

          Thanks again for joining in.

    • Antonio - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      Dude, Jenkins isn’t even a stud on the special teams let alone giving him that role as a back up standing linebacker from playing DE in college. If you are not going to give the money to rak98, you will to Ryan? People forget Rak98 was hurt 2 seasons in a roll with pectoral tear and still has 40 career sacks in a 4yr career. He deserve the money and locking him now to worry about clearing cap for Ryan and 2yrs later for Alfred/RG would be brilliant.

  2. kenlinkins - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    If we agree that it will take 2 to 3 years to build a winning team in Washington, then signing (or even Tagging) Orakpo doesn’t make sense as this will delay the development of the team. There is no value in paying $11 million (even for one year) to a guy with injury concerns and who is not a “Game Changer” to date. For 2014/2015 the key word is VALUE. Signing one guy and not being able to sign 3 or 4 more Free Agent guys who could help this team shorten the time required to make the play-offs is a mistake. This years draft alone with 80 Jr’s pushing guys out of the draft could place 7 or 8 high VALUE guys on the 90 man roster who would normally be 5th, 6th and 7th round picks. This is were you find value and build a team. This is where you build Special Teams and find guys who are ready to bud. Guys College limited by their systems who have skills required to be NFL players. Save the money, build up the roster and War Chest and allow Orakpo to be over paid by someone else.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      Not agreeing 2-3 years away from being a winning team. The QB can make a huge difference and the division is weak. Contending in 2014 is probably unrealistic but 2015 very much in play.

      IMO tagging Rak is a two-year plan, you do it again in 2015 at about $13.5 million. At that point he’ll be turning 30 and they can figure it out at that point.

  3. Raymond - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Franchise tag orakpo..since negotiating with hall and expected free agent signings at safety.2nd round pick should be used on OL followed by DL,WR,LB

    • alextwrs - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      I doubt carriker comes back, casualty of the two year lay off, hurt or not hes gotta go. Jarvis jenkins has to step up. Kerrigan needs to be the defensive leader, not Orakpo, I feel that all he is now, is a name, not a force like his first two years. This jenkins (FSU) kid has to get a chance, we need an edge rush, baaaad! Perry Riley should play close to every down, he has a motor. How come we cant find a diamond in the rough for MLB. They are every where in the league, usually undrafted. They should be one of the easier positions to grade as well. I dont care how big they are or where they come from, but make sure we get a character guy with a high motor that loves tackling. So yea let Orakpo go and get to work finding talent. Not size, talent. Whatever happened to the kid from Texas (MLB) that was supposed to be a hard hitter. Its like hes not on the field when we are watching, oh yea he hasnt been on the field. Great use of a 3rd rounder, right.

  4. darrynhyman - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    Rich….Jackson/Jenkins is no guarantee by any stretch, but I do honestly believe those two combined can get 10 sacks or close to it. 10 sacks is pretty pedestrian…Jackson had 4.5 in 2012…you don’t think Jenkins could at least get 4-5 in a full season…I don’t think that’s fooling myself at all…that’s 8.5-9.5 between them, pretty reasonable to me barring injury. 11 is bad and 13.5 is worse…its just too much for the level of production. Put that money elsewhere for a Team that won’t be a contender until AT LEAST 2015 and I have doubts about that

    • joeregotti - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      Jackson had 4 interceptions in addition to his 4.5 sacks that year.

      • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:16 PM

        Great. He also had 4 pressures/hits to go along with his sacks. Rak got 40-50 the years before and after Jackson’s career year. 4 pressures is not pass pressure, it’s occasionally stumbling into the QB.

  5. alextwrs - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    Rich, I like how you give credit to other organizations like NE, and PITT, for developing talent. How they do that is they get rid of anything in front of that talent, in our situation that is ORAKPO. He is now dead weight and if we were smart as an organization we would have traded him while he had value and was under contract. We cant get rid of talent to make way for anybody us because we dont take any chances, and dont trust our coaching and coaches decisions. Let me guess, your gonna ask who we put in behind Rak, valid question that we should ask our scouting department.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:20 PM

      Orakpo is not in front of any talent. Jackson is a sub, Jenkins is a fifth-round pick. And if you don’t trust the coaches then you want to stick with the proven commodity. A 10-sack player is “dead weight”? And on who has a solid all-around game to boot? Not sure where this comes from, I really don’t.

      And I get what you’re saying about not taking any chances with players. But take chances at safety with Thomas or a guard with Gettis. OLB in a 3-4 is too important a position to take chances.

    • Antonio - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      Trade Rak98? I have to LOL on that one but to be serious, you don’t trade your players that you draft that’s pretty talented at their position (Alfred Morris, Trent Williams, Jordan reed) for players you didn’t draft to take chances when you build a winning society with culture. Would you want to go work for a company that tells you if you start working well we’ll transfer you to a branch we really don’t care how you feel about it? No player would want to come here, look at the browns, he are at least 20yrs ahead of them because now only are dysfunctional but their owner is probably going to jail in a year or 2. Don’t you be making foolery suggestions about my redskins organization because Dougie fresh was a awesome hire, #HTTR

  6. alextwrs - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    How did our DEF do without RAK?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:31 PM

      28th in 2012. With Rak year before was 13th. Last year with Rak it was 18th. Pretty stark difference in my view.

      • ordiggs - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        rich you forgot to say we won the Division 10/6 2nd in the NFC in Defensive TO’s +17 with Rak -8 defensive ranking are misleading it ABOUT TO’S WE WERE +17 IN 2012 , SO STOP WITH THE 18TH RANK CRAP WE WERE 3/13 AND MIA IN BIG GAMES LOMBARDI STATED BIG TIME PLAYERS STEP UP IN BIG TIME GAMES WHEN HAS RAK EXECUTED THIS ? NEVER

        • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:37 PM

          Are the ALL CAPS really necessary? And that was Santana Moss who talked about big players stepping up in big games, not Lombardi.

          Hey, if you think that Rob Jackson is superior to Rak, that’s fine. There’s not a GM in the league who will agree with you.

        • darrynhyman - Feb 12, 2014 at 5:30 PM

          Hey Rich…I don’t think anyone who knows the game feels as though Jackson is superior to Rak, that is obviously not true. But, there is not enough of a drop off to warrant 11 mil for Rak. The good GM’s won’t overpay for players just because they think there is no one to replace them. The good GM’s find the replacement, especially for a player that gave you just 10 sacks (2.5 coming against the pathetic Raiders)

  7. alextwrs - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    We understand you like RAK and stand by the guys that give great effort but that is what has gotten this organization into trouble that others havent had. We beleive in retaining/signing rather than competition and saying to that guy, prove why you are worth 10 million or 9% of the cap. This puts the skins in the position of aging players soaking up a pay check rather than wanting a super bowl. When is the last time we saw a rookie or UDFA come in and unseat a starter, besides ALMO. We set the roster at the start of the season and not much changes unless injuries occur. Physical practices need to happen this yr.

  8. darrynhyman - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    totally agree alex…Rich, respect your view as always, but this is the same old story that we have had for 15 years now. Please don’t act like 10 sacks is some gaudy number that can’t be done by somebody else. You brought up the pressures from Jackson and Rak…okay…let’s talk about how many of Rak’s sacks were on 3rd down or in the 4th quarter. For 2013, by my count it was either 1-2…this is a joke….he has 5 or so career sacks against NFC east opponents and even more, we went 3-13…3-13!!! Who deserves 11 mil on a 3-13 team with 38 sacks in five years and only a couple of true impact plays that anyone can remember? As Alex said, we will stay in the same situation if we keep thinking ‘okay’ players need to be overpaid because we can’t get anyone else to replace them.

  9. evmonk - Feb 12, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Rich I’m loving your measured responses to all these combative and misinformed comments. I’m not sold on Rak for $10m either, but you make a strong case.

  10. pkevinenns - Feb 12, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    evmonk I agree with giving cudos to Rich for measured responses!
    As in everything else with a team sport it is very hard to isolate one player and make a good assessment without giving consideration to other factors/non-factors on his side of the ball. When we lost Carriker and Bowen turned in a disappointing year that had an impact on Orakpo, just as poor safety play did. I am content to let the staff figure out Orakpo’s value. I believe we are a much better defense with him starting at OLB, partly because of the combination of strength, speed, and agility that he has that Jackon does not and Jankins has yet to show. Don’t get me wrong, Jackson is a good player, but I do not see him being on the same tier as Orakpo. See post on 5 Most Valuable Redskins in 2013 for clarity.

  11. garrisjs - Feb 12, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    Hi Rich,

    I really enjoy your articles… they keep me going through the looong off season (which, for me, pretty much started when we dropped the opener to the Eagles).

    I see alot of comments here suggesting that, for the money, R. Jackson is a better deal for us than Rak.
    Basically the argument is: we can resign R. Jackson + another above average player in the secondary;
    or we can resign Rak and not have any cap space left over for upgrades to the D.

    You usually do a fantastic job using facts to settle these types of arguments. Do you think you could write a post comparing R. Jackson’s numbers v/s Rak’s numbers, maybe an average of sacks/hurries/ints/tackles for loss/big plays when they started a game?

    And then break down how our cap would be impacted if we resign R. Jackson to a long term deal AND sign another quality starter to the D v/s using the Franchise Tag on Rak for the next 2 season?

    Thanks again for your great work!

  12. kenlinkins - Feb 12, 2014 at 8:38 PM

    Rich, I can understand your thinking IF you feel that the problem was more coaching staff than anything else in 2013 and that there are many other players that require review and correction before taking the gamble on Orakpo. Am I in the ball park?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2014 at 8:45 PM

      Not really. It’s very simple. You don’t let a good pass rusher walk without another one to take his place. You pay him, possibly overpay him, what you have to and then you work things out from there. That, and a lot of fans severely underrate Orakpo.

      • darrynhyman - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:50 PM

        Hey Rich…what exactly do you feel is underrated about Orakpo? I am genuinely interested in hearing your view on his career and the high value you place on him.

        I have seen some other comments about people believing that others are saying Jackson is on the same level…I know that is not my stance. I simply feel that it’s not a major drop-off and by no means is he the long term answer, but one that can be a stop gap in combination with Jenkins to provide similar production. You take out 2.5 sacks against the sorry Raiders and Orakpo has 7.5 sacks in 14 games…in his only other double digit sack season (2009) he had 4 sacks against JaMarcus Russell and the sorry Raiders…that gave him 7 sacks in 15 games. He is not an impact/game changing player…never has been and I just feel he shouldn’t be paid like one on a team that has so many holes. Folks can certainly disagree, but I would challenge anyone of the other bloggers to say that any of this is misinformed.

  13. George - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    What about franchise tagging Rak for the purpose of trading him? Does he have trade value and how much?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 13, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      I suppose you could. You still have the issue of replacing him but would be preferable to him walking away with no compensation.

  14. 56waysto - Feb 13, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    He’s not just a pass rusher. His sack/pressure numbers are comparable with just about everybody listed above him and he’s doing it with half the rush attempts. Plus, He’s a much better run defender than most on that list. As well as he is solid in coverage, which almost none on that list do. How about we pay him as a top-tier outside linebacker, which is what he is moreso than just a passrusher.

  15. dazwun - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    Let me start by saying that Rich I consider you a must read to stay up to date with things that actually matter to the fans. You do a great job!
    With that said, I am normally on the lets not pay 10sackpo elite money side of the argument, but i want to play devils advocate for a while.
    We constantly want our team to be run like the top stable orgs, well they resign their guys. We are always letting our drafted talent walk; some have run screaming due to the dysfunction. But at some point Management have to start a culture of resigning guys to make the point to future picks that we are going to develop and keep you. Eventually we will be able to resign guys for cheaper because it will be a natural process, but to move us in that direction we will probably have to overpay slightly. If we resign Rak and Riley then when its Kerrigan’s or Reed’s (fill in the blank with a young player’s name) time they will not feel like Management values free agents more, so why stay if we are not building something unless it’s for a boat load of money?
    Just saying to operate like Pitt or NE we have to start somewhere. Archives

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