Brian Orakpo could hit the free agency market

Patrick Smith

If the Redskins don't apply the franchise tag to Brian Orakpo, he'll likely want to test the open market.

The Washington Redskins have a Monday deadline to apply the franchise tag to players, but the only realistic candidate to receive the designation is outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. The Redskins will likely want to avoid losing the three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher, but by applying the franchise tag, Orakpo would be $11.455 million in 2014, which might be out of the team's price range.

If that's the case, the Redskins better be prepared to give Orakpo a long-term deal in a hurry, because according to John Keim of ESPN, he's prepared to test the market to receive the number he thinks he deserves.

The Redskins want to re-sign him and Orakpo would like to come back. But he's more than comfortable testing the market in order to get the sort of contract he wants. The Redskins could place the franchise tag on him (the deadline is Monday). That would leave him with a salary of approximately $11 million this year, but no long-term security if he gets injured. The Redskins could sign him to a back-loaded five-year contract that has a much lower cap figure for the first two years of the deal. But at some point he'll count a great deal against the cap and not be cuttable, at least for a year.

Orakpo, 27, was the third-overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft and was immediately a strong pass rusher in the NFL, racking up 11 sacks and a Pro Bowl bid in his rookie season. His success continued in 2010 and 2011 with 17.5 combined sacks, but suffered consecutive pectoral tears in 2011 and 2012.

Still, he recovered from the injuries to record 10 sacks and a third Pro Bowl selection in a contract year in 2013.

Now Orakpo is set to become the top pass rusher on the market if he reaches it, as Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers received the franchise tag on Friday. That could mean a big pay day for a three-time Pro Bowler with plenty of good years still ahead of him.

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews received a six-year, $69.73 million deal in April that set the market for the position. While Orakpo likely won't receive the same amount, he might be close. That's a number that the Redskins might not want to reach.

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