Earlier this week, the Redskins decided to put the franchise tag on linebacker Brian Orakpo. The move was a controversial one because although it virtually ensures Orakpo will remain with the team in 2014, the tag chews up $11.5 million of salary cap space.
As with any significant roster decision, there are pros and cons. Today, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir debate the good and the bad of tagging Orakpo in this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.
Tandler: This certainly wasn’t a no-brainer but it was the right move for the Redskins to make. A team with so many glaring holes could certainly use that cap room to bring in a few good players. But letting Orakpo walk in free agency—and the odds are that he would have been gone if the Redskins hadn’t tagged him—would have create a huge hole. Bottom line, he is the team’s best defensive player and he plays the most important position in the 3-4 scheme. There is no suitable replacement on the roster and there weren’t any in free agency who would not have eaten up a considerable chunk of what they would have saved by letting Orakpo go. He is not an “elite” player, whatever that is, but he’s a very good one. The Redskins don’t have many of those and there was no guarantee that they would have one if they decided to spread Orakpo’s salary around to a few different free agents. Bruce Allen and the team’s numbers crunchers will now just have to work a little bit harder to fill the holes on the team.
El-Bashir: I’ll admit that I’ve gone back and forth on this one. On the one hand, if Orakpo had hit the open market (without being tagged) there’s no doubt he would have signed elsewhere. And that would have created a new hole on a unit that’s already plagued by far too many of them. On the other hand, I can’t help but believe that the Redskins would have been better off plugging Rob Jackson into Orakpo’s spot and then using the $11.5 million (or $13.1 million if Rak’s representatives successfully argue that he’s actually an end) to acquire three or four quality starters via free agency. Jackson isn’t as effective as Orakpo, I’ll give you that. But Jackson did perform quite well as Orakpo's replacement down the stretch in 2012. The money saved by letting ‘Rak walk could have allowed the Redskins to make upgrades along the defensive line, at safety, corner and possibly inside linebacker, too. So that’s the real question here: would it have been wiser to add three or four new starters or retain one very good player who, in the end, might become embittered by the whole process? Given the current state of the Redskins’ hole-ridden roster, I would have pursued the more-is-better option.