- The Washington Times
Tuesday, March 4, 2014


The Washington Redskins have honored linebacker Brian Orakpo by naming him their franchise player.

Not sure how much of an honor it is to be the franchise player of this franchise. After all, the last player to get such an honor in Washington was Fred Davis, and we know how that went. Davis went on to become the Fairfax County Police Department’s franchise player as well.

Let’s face it — Brian Orakpo is the franchise player of a franchise that went 3-13 last year, a franchise that has gone 28-52 since he was drafted in the first round with the 13th pick of the 2009 NFL draft. Clay Matthews watched as Orakpo went 13 picks before him.

You know Clay Matthews, don’t you? A two-time All Pro selection and NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010? In case you want to see what a franchise player really looks like.

Last year Matthews got a six-year, $69.73 million contract extension from the Green Bay Packers.

OK, technically, the non-exclusive franchise designation isn’t exactly an award — although it does come with an $11.455 million prize. But it’s better than his typical honor of alternate selection to the Pro Bowl.

The Redskins placed the “non-exclusive franchise designation” (how do you fit that on a plaque?) on Orakpo because they didn’t want him to walk away and take his talents to another team. His value has become the No. 1 topic of debate among Redskins fans this winter, because no one is quite sure of his value. It’s not as if we have a mountain of evidence to feel good about the designation.

Orakpo has always had a higher opinion of himself than others have. He was outraged when ESPN didn’t name him one of the top 10 pass rushers in the NFL in 2011. But there was hardly a groundswell of outrage beyond Orakpo and his agent, perhaps.

But there was speculation this winter that Orakpo would be highly sought-after on the free-agent market, because he did have 10 sacks this past season, the second best of his five-year career, and there weren’t many, if any, pass rushers available.

Let’s face it, though — in the entire time Orakpo has been a Washington Redskin, he has never had a memorable signature play, the sort of play that people can recall to define what a player has meant to this team. At least not against any team not named the Oakland Raiders, and certainly not against any rival in the NFC East.

Yet the Redskins felt that they couldn’t let Orakpo walk away, so they tagged him with the non-exclusive designation, which means another team can sign Orakpo, provided it surrenders two future first-round picks to the Redskins as compensation.

With Vinny Cerrato out of the league — the guy who drafted Orakpo and who still can’t correctly pronounce his name — no one is going to give up two first-round picks for him. The Redskins can also still negotiate a long-term contract with Orakpo. The league mandates that any team using the franchise designation has until July 15 to sign that player to a deal beyond the one-year contract tender. Orakpo is expected to seek Clay Matthews money for any long-term deal.

That seems a bit much for a franchise player of a 3-13 franchise.

Yet this is the narrative coming out of Redskins Park this winter — that they can’t let anyone, particularly from this defense that at times was embarrassing and has been throughout Orakpo’s career — get away.

This is the storyline of the 2014 Washington Redskins — “talent held hostage.”

The two key personnel figures at Redskins Park — Morocco Brown and Scott Campbell — were ignored and held back by the presence of Mike Shanahan. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was held back by the presence of Mike Shanahan, and therefore we haven’t seen true Redskins defense — and therefore the true value of Brian Orakpo.

I’ve never seen such high expectations for a 3-13 team with a defense that gave up 30 points a game.

If they truly believe that the Redskins’ defense was talent held hostage, then I guess you have to at least see what an unchained Brian Orakpo can do this year.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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