Brian Orakpo was officially tendered the franchise tag by the Washington Redskins. It was anything but an easy call, but it was the right call.
"They did what they had to do," Orakpo told ESPN 980 via phone on Monday afternoon, shortly after the news was announced by the Redskins.
"I am glad about moving forward with the franchise tag," Orakpo said while stressing that he is optimistic about the direction that the two sides can now take in securing a long term deal.
Being glad about the franchise tag might be a little bit of an overstatement. Nobody really wants to be tagged or to use the tag.
The cost is plenty on both sides. The player only gets a one year deal at a fraction (Half?) of the guaranteed money he would normally receive, while the organization has to absorb a huge salary cap number of at least 11.45 million that counts entirely against the 2014 cap space.
Normally a long term contract is designed to cost lower against the cap in the first and second years, before beginning the bloated financial figures that are part of these deals.
While the two sides have until July 15th to work out a long-term deal, the Redskins will have to carry that cap charge of at least 11.45 million forward until such a time. That is assuming that Orakpo's agents do not win a designation that he is a defensive end.
They shouldn't. He's an outside linebacker and everyone (including the Redskins and the NFL) knows it. Sure, Washington runs a four-man defensive line front about 62% of the time, but that is not four down linemen.
Orakpo is almost always standing up and rushing from a two point stance with two down linemen in a "nickel' design.
While there will be some sort of debate about that issue, that's not the debate that seems to have some a little hot under the collar. It is the perception that Dan Snyder made this decision, despite others in the organization feeling differently.
It's the questions that Jay Gruden or even Bruce Allen may not have been on par with the decision. Or Morocco Brown.
There was a very intense, healthy debate and "internal struggle" as one source called it on what exactly to do.
The long term extension is the best salary cap option, and the best option for Orakpo. It's also the best option for the Redskins if the money is right. That doesn't mean just right now, it means in Year three and four, where if you have to dump a guy at 29 or 30 years old that is a key core of your defense because of bloated salary cap figures created by keeping the year one and two charges down, that's not a great situation to be staring down the road at.
Especially considering the Redskins are going to have to take care of Trent Williams (entering Year five of a rookie six-year deal), Robert Griffin III (entering year three of essentially a five year deal) and Alfred Morris (entering year three of a very low rookie deal).
Some fans and members of the media took the internal struggle on what to do with Orakpo as a sign of chaos or dysfunction. I don't quite see it that way.
I see it in this way. You want different voices and perspectives, that ultimately come to a consensus.
Maybe the consensus is spend more now, while you are rebuilding the defense and make the long term decision in three months after the draft and free agency to see if you have a viable long term plan.
Maybe the consensus was "we couldn't lose our best player" on a sub-par unit, and face the challenge of not only replacing him but still adding to the mix.
That would be my guess, which is what I've been saying all along. The Redskins put an engagement ring on Brian Orakpo's finger after dating him for the last five years, and now they have to determine if they want to marry him.
Sounds silly, right? However, I would say that's the true debate. I would allow that I heard a lot of rumblings about letting Orakpo hit the market or to use the transition tag on him, which would lower the cap number while also allowing the Redskins to match any offer.
That thought process made a certain amount of sense. Especially the transition tag option. As one source said "you keep yourself in the game longer" with that mechanism. However, you also don't give yourself any compensation if you decide not to match.
If you think a very complicated decision should have been a slam-dunk, you are nuts. NFL teams want certain players all the time, but then the cost short and long-term has to be weighed and measured. This is the debate.
Anybody that thinks this kind of debate does not go on all around the NFL, just isn't paying attention. This is not dysfunction, this is collaborative decision making. As one Redskins source put it, "Media in this area, they think everything is a conspiracy."
The Redskins ultimately decided they were not willing to play poker with the rest of the NFL, and chose to show part of their hand to Orakpo's side while maintaining the trump card.
They can do that. It's the business of the NFL. Orakpo has options, they have options.
As one player source said to me, "nobody should be mad about making 11 million dollars." Orakpo to his credit is certainly saying all of the right things. "I am relieved and happy," he told ESPN 980 on Monday.
That's it. The decision is done. The franchise tag guarantees nothing but the Redskins right to do what they feel is appropriate. Orakpo can still shop his services. The Redskins could ultimately choose to trade him.
The Washington Redskins continued the non-stop news cycle on Tuesday afternoon by releasing vested veterans Adam Carriker and Sav Rocca.
The team also released tight end Richard Quinn, and running backs Jawan Jamison and Davin Meggett.
The big names are clearly Carriker and Rocca, and the Redskins will save just under 4.2 million (4.189) against their 2014 salary cap, while accepting a "dead-money" charge of just under 3.7 million (3.683) per figures obtained via OvertheCap.com and other public salary cap sources for Rocca and Carriker.
The two veteran players were scheduled to count for 7.872 million. Estimated salary cap numbers show one figure from those players (4.2 million savings)but Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com provides an update on his calculated savings with the "Rule of 51" playing a major factor http://realredskins.com/2014/03/04/redskins-net-3-2-million-in-cap-space-after-tuesdays-moves/
Carriker has made it clear to ESPN.com's John Keim and myself that he has essentially been told by the Redskins that he will be given a chance to prove that he is healthy and can play again after missing all of 2013 and most of 2012.
That statement does not mean that the Redskins have closed the door forever on a possible return of Carriker. It just means that he will not be re-signed under a new contract at this point. Totally understandable.
Three league sources all made it clear to ESPN 980 in the evening hours of Tuesday night that Carriker would "very likely," as one source put it; be given a chance to prove his health to the Redskins in June. What that means is that Carriker will have to rehab on his own over the next two plus months and assuming he has not signed with another team, he will be given a chance to work out for Washington's medical staff and coaches.
Carriker is free to work out for and visit the other 31 teams in the NFL. The move is the cold, harsh reality of the business but the silver lining is that now the veteran defensive end has a chance to prove his health and skills to anybody, instead of just the Redskins.
Rocca, was in trouble already and everybody knew it. The Redskins have young veteran Robert Malone on their roster who played with the Jets under new special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica.
Rocca struggled on a pretty consistent basis last year. He was in the final year of a two-year contract he signed last off-season.
Rocca could not be reached for comment via text or phone.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
The NFL's annual scouting combine is underway in Indianapolis and will stretch from now until Tuesday afternoon.
What does it mean? That's hard to define. I'm not sure if there is one right answer to that question, but clearly it is an important information collection period.
The process began many months ago, but one thing I am keeping an eye on based on conversations with a lot of different sources and analysts in terms of the Redskins is:
I. Will the Redskins find a top flight defensive back in Indy?
- They still need two in my eyes, despite signing DeAngelo Hall to a new deal well before he hit the open market and unrestricted free agency. Anybody that has a problem with the deal, should reevaluate how they watch football. Hall was very good last year, and the thought that the Redskins should not re-sign players from a (3-13) team is preposterous.
Free agency will bring at least one dose of fresh blood, probably two. A hybrid safety to keep an eye on for the Redskins might just be Carolina's Mike Mitchell.
The draft is loaded with defensive backs that fit the trend the Seahawks created with taller, more physical bump-and-run guys who can also play off-man and actually tackle.
In talking to a couple of my draft analyst friends on ESPN980 this week,Josh Liskiewitz of GMJr.com and RussLande.com touted the praises of Clemson's Bashaud Breeland, who Liskiewitz said no matter what he measures in at - plays and looks like he's 6'2".
"He looks every bit like Richard Sherman aesthetically. He looks 6'2", 215 and he plays like it. He's so physical at the line of scrimmage. He can simply knock wide receivers right over, with his jam. He's fluid in coverage. He can track. He can run probably a little bit better than Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State. "Bashaud Breeland is the guy to pay attention to this week." Not only is he big, but I think he has the complete game," Liskiewitz said. "He's that strong, he's that physical. He certainly has length."
Ryan Lownes of DraftBreakdown.comsays "I wasn't blown away" by any of the taller, physical corners that were gathered at the Senior Bowl. He did mention Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller, a six foot plus corner. Another guy to keep an eye on is Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner, a hybrid safety/cornerback.
Mike Mayock of the NFL Networkdid a fantastic conference call before the combine started and highlighted another defensive back that the Redskins could absolutely be in the hunt for.
"My favorite nickel (slot CB) in the draft is Jason Verrett from TCU, and the only reason I wouldn't say he's a top 20 pick is because of his size. He's 5 9, he's probably 185, but he's ideal for the slot because he's quick footed, he's tough, and remember, the slot guys, what gets overlooked is you have to tackle and this kid is a tough kid even though he's undersized. I really like Verrett. And I think the other guy that's kind of interesting and I've got him listed as a safety is Lamarcus Joyner from Florida State. He played corner. I think he's a little bit like Tyrann Mathieu in that he was a corner in college, but I think he's going to have to kick inside and either be a safety or a nickel or both and he's an explosive kid like Tyrann Mathieu. Those are the two guys right off the top that I like at nickel."
Defensive backs do not work out until Tuesday but arrive in Indianapolis this weekend for interviews, medicals and measurements.
What should the Redskins do with Brian Orakpo? First, they must retain him and I feel by any means necessary.
Franchise tag him or sign him to a long term deal at a fair number are the only two choices in my eyes. Yes, that means that if you are amongst the group that thinks Orakpo can just be replaced, you are not thinking realistically and more important, you are wrong.
This defense needs to add talent, not subtract and then try to replace it. Orakpo is not Aldon Smith or Von Miller. He's also not an idiot like those guys are. Both of them. Two knuckleheads that I would never want on my team.
Orakpo is a core Redskin. The Redskins need players have worked hard to get better. Many believe he's not an elite pass rusher. I know he feels like he is,and Jim Haslett feels he is, but the raw numbers would suggest a debate can be made on both sides.
Orakpo is now a three time Pro Bowler after his addition to the 2014 game. He posted double digit sacks in 2013 for the first time since 2009.
Orakpo started off somewhat slow and tentative as he was trying to make his way back from missing nearly the entire 2012 season. He posted a sack in a dreadful loss at Lambeau Field when the Redskins were attacking Aaron Rodgers before the Packer great got comfortable himself. That sack put Orakpo over 30 in his career and was his first since what happened in St. Louis in week 2 of 2012.
In Orakpo's best individual game of the season, he abused an awful, backup left tackle in Oakland for two sacks and also had a monster run stop on 3rd-and-1 that forced a long field goal miss by Sebastian Janikowski and which turned into points for the Redskins and their first win of the season.
Who knew they would only have two more?
In the Redskins 2nd win of the season, Orakpo would have his first interception in the NFL and his first career touchdown as Reed Doughty combined with Orakpo to pop a ball up in to the air, and Orakpo had what he called his first interception at any level. Hard to fathom, but he insisted on it.
Orakpo did not dominate another backup left tackle in Chris Clark of the Broncos like the Redskins really needed but he did have a 2nd career fumble recovery in a valiant effort for the defense in Denver.
He really cranked up the pass rush numbers and very much improved run defense down the stretch with a sack in Philadelphia and against San Francisco. Six days later, in the midst of a lost season - Orakpo had two sacks against the Giants for his eighth multi-sack game.
During this stretch, Orakpo had a sack in four straight games for the first time in his five year career, a period that ended with 5.5 sacks in that four game span.
Orakpo got into double digits in Atlanta with 1.5 sacks against a backup left tackle yet again but it still should be noted that not everybody gets to double digits. Very few do. Orakpo also had a 2nd career fumble recovery in the Atlanta loss.
So what do you do with him? How do you retain Orakpo while protecting yourself at the same time.
"If I could get him to agree to take a home-team discount which I don't think he will, in the Paul Kruger range (8 MM per year),I would sign that," said Joel Corry on ESPN 980 Wednesday night. Corry, a former sports agent and NFL salary cap analyst for CBSSports.com and the National Football Post realizes the chances are slim and none on that front. "Knowing that's not going to happen realistically, the franchise tag becomes a real option."
For a change the Redskins have money to spend under the cap. While figures vary and are dependent on what they do with certain situations (Adam Carriker, Chris Chester?) "the Redskins are going to have roughly 25-26 million worth of cap room," says Corry. That allows them to tag Orakpo (at just under 11 million) and "then you make the decision next year."
Tagging Orakpo with the designation might frustrate Orakpo and his agents at CAA, but it is the most realistic option. It does not prevent a long term deal as Corry explained that both sides could still arrive at one by the cut-off date of July 15th.
Corry explained that Orakpo would still have some leverage in this particular scenario by not reporting to training camp in Richmond (unlikely) and not signing the franchise tender offer. In such a scenario, Orakpo could negotiate a clause that would prevent a franchise or transition tag designation for 2015 or Corry said Orakpo could actually ask for more money than the franchise tag would dictate.
Corry said the reason for this would be that a "2nd franchise tag (2015) is 120 % of the previous year's salary." In other words, Orakpo would get more money this year (2014) while making it extremely difficult for the Redskins to use the franchise tag again.
The problem for Washington is that a franchise tag this year would count for more than one-third of their approximate salary cap room.
If the Redskins were to seriously entertain a long term contract with Orakpo, the average annual value of the contract could be north of 11 million, but "it's really what he's going to make in the first three years," according to Corry.
Corry points out something to keep in mind that "Greg Hardy (Carolina DE) who will be the best pass rusher on the market," will probably not get out of Carolina. However, Michael Johnson of Cincinnati could certainly be set free by the Bengals (Minnesota anyone?) and whether he is or he isn't, take a guess who the next best pass rusher is?? "It's Brian Orakpo," says Corry and thenumbers from ProFootballFocus.com would certainly back that up.
Ultimately, Orakpo is going to want money too rich for the Redskins blood and as I've said all along, that's why the NFL created the current system.
"Franchising him may become the actual thing that happens if the Redskins think his demands are excessive," says Corry. They will be, in any reasonable opinion.
The Redskins also have to balance whatever they do with Orakpo with the assumed need that they will try very hard to bring back DeAngelo Hall, Perry Riley and Chris Baker.
The problem is, combined with a franchise tag for Orakpo (my expectation) and three new contracts for those players, it might leave the Redskins with five million dollars or less of salary cap room to actually add talent.
Hall played for virtual peanuts last year, and will be looking for a deal that will bring better value. Corry explained "the big problem is he's at 30 so that's the wrong age. He made 2 million if you include his incentives. Maybe a 2-3 year deal, you give him some salary escalators and incentives. Maybe 9-10 million over three years if he maxes out everything, but you don't break the bank for him."
That's not even getting to Riley who may want something similar to what Dannell Ellerbereceived from the Dolphins. Baker should be a hot commodity, after drawing interest from the Seahawks as a restricted free agent last year. His strong play down the stretch as a versatile defensive lineman who can play nose and end, along with the ability to play a defensive tackle position in a 4-3 should lead to a nice payday.
Tough decisions ahead for Bruce Allen, Jay Gruden and the Redskins
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980