The Redskins have decided to use the franchise tag on free agent outside linebacker
The move allows the Redskins to retain Orakpo’s rights during free agency. If another team attempts to sign Orakpo, then the Redskins would be entitled to possibly two first-round draft picks.
Orakpo, 27, is coming off a renaissance season in which he bounced back from an injury depleted 2012 to return to Pro Bowl form. The Pro Bowl selection was the third of Orakpo’s career, including selections in his first two NFL seasons following the 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
He led the Redskins defense in sacks (10), tackles for a loss (15), quarterback pressures (42) and a pair of fumble recoveries. He also collected 70 tackles, five passes defensed and his first career interception returned for a touchdown.
The double-digit sacks were Orakpo’s most in a season since setting a Redskins rookie record with 11.0 sacks in 2009. Orakpo’s 10-sack season gave him 39.5 for his career, fifth-most in team history.
Given how pass rushers have become a premium position in the National Football League, it is expected that Orakpo would have garnered significant interest on the free agent market. As such, he was recently named a top-5 free agent by multiple NFL publications.
New Redskins head coach Jay Gruden spoke glowingly of Orakpo at this year’s Scouting Combine, foreshadowing such a move ahead of free agency.
"He’s a top priority for us. We’d love to get Brian back," Gruden told reporters. "Obviously, we have a lot of respect for what Brian has done as a Washington Redskin. We hope to get him back next year, no question.”
Tagging Orakpo does carry some risk, though.
The fifth-year player has played all 16 games just twice in his career, and has not played a full slate since 2011. While the team is expected to pursue a longer term deal, the current tag does leave them on the hook for a fully guaranteed contract this season.
Early reviews has CBS Sports NFL analyst Will Brinson approving the move in conversations with Redskins.com.
“Orakpo’s a good candidate for the tag for my money because you look at him as a player who has had a lot of success but who is maybe not consistent,” Brinson explained.
“Give him a one shot year, he’s playing to prove a contract. Can he stay healthy? Can he put up big numbers? And if does, then maybe you ink him to a deal or maybe you let him walk.
“Pass rushers are so valuable, that to me, you can’t just let him walk for free.”