The decision comes in lieu of a long-term contract, which the two sides had been negotiating since the close of the Redskins' disappointing season. The deal will pay Orakpo $11.455 million for one year, all of which is guaranteed and will count against the Redskins' 2014 salary cap. That a serious chunk, but thanks to a healthy salary situation, that still leaves the Redskins around $12 million in cap room.
While the tag gives Orakpo a nice pay day for next season, it prevents him from hitting free agency, where he would have been one of the top defenders on the market and could have garnered multi-year offers from any number of teams.
Orakpo had a bounce-back 2013 after a torn pectoral cost him the majority of the 2012 season. The 27-year-old, who serves as a pass-rushing specialist from his outside linebacker position in Washington's 3-4 defense, led the team with 10 sacks in 2013, his first double-digit sack total since his rookie year in 2011. He earned the third Pro Bowl trip of his career, and Pro Football Focus rated him as the fourth-best 3-4 outside linebacker for the 2013 season.
Redskins blog Hogs Haven isn't crazy about the decision. During the season, they expressed trepidation over the idea of franchising Orakpo, which Steve Shoup argued doesn't make sense in this case.
When you tag someone to avoid a long term deal, it is typically because a player is showing signs of his production is falling off and/or because the player is getting up there in age. Neither case applies to Orakpo. He's set to have perhaps his most productive year this season, and will be just 28 next year, still very much in the prime of his career. If the Redskins were to tag him for just one year and he had another similarly productive year, his contract demands would likely go up. Given that the Redskins aren't considered a top contending team next year this seems like a waste.
This doesn't mean that the Redskins didn't prefer to lock down Orakpo long term, however. If contract negotiations weren't going well and if Orakpo was demanding a more lucrative deal than the team deemed reasonable, it's better to keep him for one year than let him walk into free agency.
Instead, the Redskins will have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal with Orakpo, if they choose to do so. If the team is unable to reach an agreement before then, Orakpo will play the 2014 season under the franchise tag.
Orakpo will almost certainly wait to sign his franchise tender and instead push for a long-term deal before that deadline, which could include a hold out through OTAs in the spring. If the Redskins consider Orakpo a long-term fixture on the team, it would be in the team's best interest to reach a new contract as well, to avoid guaranteeing him more than $11 million in 2014 and difficulty locking him up in the 2015 offseason.
That means leverage is now in the hands of Orakpo who can look for additional perks and money in the negotiation of a long-term deal that is ultimately in the best interest of both parties.
Ultimately, the franchise tag essentially guarantees that Orakpo will stay with the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft for the 2014 season, although there is still the extremely slim chance that a team could sign him anyway. In that event, the Redskins would be given the opportunity to match the deal and would receive two first-round picks as compensation if they choose not to.