Redskins coach Jay Gruden is in no hurry to get Brian Orakpo, the team’s franchise tagged outside linebacker, a long-term contract. In fact, it might not be something that happens this year.
Speaking at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Gruden said that he “wouldn’t mind letting him play out his franchise tag” before committing to him for a number of years.
Keeping Orakpo on the tag this season makes sense on a number of different levels. For one, it would give him a chance to show that he can have two strong seasons in a row. Orakpo’s 10 sacks last year were the most he has had in a season since his 2009 rookie year and Gruden wants to see if he can put together back-to-back strong seasons. There are also questions about his health. He suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the 2011 season finale and then after rehabbing he suffered the same injury in the second game in 2012. That shelved him for the season.
Despite the question marks, Gruden said that they needed to tag Orakpo to keep him from leaving. "Pass rushers don't grow on trees," he said.
Keeping Orakpo tagged this year would put the situation back to square one in March of 2015. The team would have the option to use the tag on him a second time for 120 percent of his current-year salary of $11.45 million. Doing the math, that would be one-year deal worth about $13.7 million.
A decision on a long-term contract is not Gruden’s to make; the final say would belong to Bruce Allen. But it’s doubtful that Gruden would talk about keeping Orakpo tagged for the year if it didn’t reflect the current thinking of Allen and the rest of the organization. That doesn’t mean it won’t change but as of now it appears that Orakpo will have to wait for a deal extending beyond this year.