There’s a new regime in the nation’s capital and a lot of decisions need to be made, including whether or not the team will re-sign linebacker Brian Orakpo. The fifth-year veteran, 27, bounced back from a season-ending injury in 2012 to register 10 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss on a defense that struggled against just about everybody.
Earlier this month the Washington Times reported the Washington Redskins have already engaged in contract talks with Orakpo. Under first-year head coach Jay Gruden, the team will remain a 3-4 defense, which is where Orakpo has thrived when healthy.
Last season, the top free-agent outside linebacker Paul Kruger received a five-year deal worth $41 million from the Cleveland Browns, which should set a base for where negotiations with Orakpo should begin. However, pass-rushers such as Clay Matthews, DeMarco Ware and Tamba Hali — considered the league’s premier players at the position — make an average of about $11 million annually.
While the Skins view re-signing Orakpo as a priority this offseason, he’ll have a laundry list of suitors around the league. Orakpo may have thrived as an outside backer in a 3-4 with Washington but he also enjoyed success at Texas with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end, making him all the more coveted.
The New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans are among the 3-4 teams in need of a premier edge rusher. There’s a host of talent in this year’s draft, but Orakpo is a proven commodity. He could line up opposite of Junior Gallette with New Orleans, but the team likely cannot afford Orakpo with a deal for Jimmy Graham in the works. The Cards’ best pass-rusher, John Abraham, will play at 36 this season, and his tank must be close to empty. And in Houston, Romeo Crennel will be looking for an edge rusher to complement J.J. Watt.
Washington’s division rival may also make a run at Orakpo. The Philadelphia Eagles’ outside backers combined for 13 sacks last season, so inserting Orakpo into one of those spots instantly upgrades their pass rush. And what about the San Diego Chargers? Jarret Johnson is 32 and is on the downside of his career. Orakpo and former first-rounder Melvin Ingram would make a formidable tandem.