Redskins face interesting decision with Brian Orakpo

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Orakpo is a three-time Pro Bowler, but does his injury history and production warrant a huge deal?

Brian Orakpo bounced back from a 2012 season cut short by injury to post one of the best years of his career in 2013 and earn a third trip to the Pro Bowl. At first glance, that would make re-signing Orakpo appear to be an obvious priority for the Washington Redskins who have cap space to spare, but it might not be so simple.

The Redskins currently have $1.37 million in salary cap space, according to the NFL Players Association, which isn't much at all to work with. However, Over The Cap estimates that the team will have over $28 million to work with once the league year ends in March, the sixth most in the NFL.

That's plenty of room to fit in a long-term deal for Orakpo, but the question is simply whether or not the Redskins want to pull that trigger.

Orakpo, 27, wasted no time making his impact in the NFL as a rookie in 2009 after he was selected in the first round, racking up 11 sacks for the team. While he didn't eclipse 10 sacks in 2010 and 2011, his 17.5 sacks over the span still made him the most productive pass rusher on the Redskins.

Consecutive pectoral muscle tears at the end of the 2011 season and the beginning of the 2012 season cost Orakpo all but two games in 2012, but he bounced back in 2013 with 10 sacks as well as his first career interception and first touchdown.

A productive player for the Redskins, there's no doubt Orakpo is one of the better young outside linebackers in the NFL. It's debatable, though, whether or not his production and recent injury history can be ignored in the face of a large price tag.

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews received a five-year deal worth $66 million in the 2013 offseason, which Orakpo won't quite warrant. However, as a three-time Pro Bowl selection, it's likely that he'll target a deal that gives him an average of at least $10 million per year.

Ken Meringolo of SB Nation's Redskins blog, Hogs Haven, isn't sure that the price is worth it for Orakpo:

"Even though [the Redskins] have additional resources this offseason, [they] still have to think long and hard about where to deploy those resources...I have no doubt [the team is] interested in keeping Orakpo on some level. I have no doubt other teams have interest in Orakpo on some level. I question the wisdom of asking a guy to give you a hometown discount, but the truth is that [the team] might not have to be the highest bidder to keep him."

Rick Snider of the Washington Post thinks it's a little more clear cut:

"Orakpo would cost perhaps a third of the Redskins' free agent budget, but he's worth it. The defense needs a core player, and Orakpo is it. At 27, he's in his prime. Keeping the outside pass rusher means Washington has a playmaker on one side with the improving Ryan Kerrigan on the other."

One other possibility is that the Redskins could give Orakpo the franchise tag, which would give the outside linebacker a one-year deal worth about $11 million and delay the decision about a long-term deal for another year. The deadline to apply the franchise tag is March 3.

Orakpo is scheduled to become a free agent when his contract expires on March 11.

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