Previewing Brian Orakpo’s Contract Extension

Redskins Personnel Washington Commanders

Brian Orakpo Contract Extension: 5 years $44.5 million, $22 million guaranteed, $7.5 million signing bonus

Year     |    Base               |   Signing Bonus      |   Total Cap Hit       |  Dead Cap if Cut 

2014    |    $5 million    |   $1.5 million          |   $6.50 million          |  $22.0 million

2015    |     $6.5  million     |   $1.5 million       |    $8.0 million         |   $15.5 million

2016    |     $7.0  million     |  $1.5 million        |   $8.5 million         |    $7.5  million

2017  |      $9.0 million       |  $1.5 million        |   $10.5 million       |   $3 million

2018    |    $9.5 million       |   $1.5 million       |   $11 million     |   $1.5 million

Guaranteed money: $7.5 million signing bonus, all of 2014 and 2015 base salary, and $3 million of the 2016 base salary

Why Orakpo is worth this deal:

The $8.9 million a year average sounds like quite a bit, but it’s likely a full $2-2.5 million less than what the Franchise tag for outside linebackers is expected to be in 2014. While it’s possible the Redskins could get him for a lower rate, Orakpo is starting to have a very strong season and has played better throughout his career than most fans believe. His sack numbers have been negatively impacted by his lower than normal pass rush percentage. If he rushed as often as some of the top pass rushers, Orakpo’s sack numbers would consistently be in the top 10 of the league. Orakpo also gets a considerable number of pressures which rank in the top 10 even without the additional rushes.

Another reason why Orakpo is worth this deal is his potential to move back to a 4-3 defensive end spot. While there is no guarantee the Redskins make this transition, it is definitely possible and that adds extra value to this deal. Defensive ends make more on average than outside linebackers and the franchise tag for the position should be well above $12 million this year. If Orakpo were entering free agency as a 4-3 defensive end, he would surely see a bigger pay day if the Redskins lock him now at outside linebacker rates, then they are getting a bigger bargain if they ever move back to a 4-3 defense.

Why the deal is structured like it is:

Typically with long term extensions or signings you look to have a small initial cap hit in the first year and then begin to backload the deal. While the Redskins would be able to do that, it’s not the prudent thing to do, especially a team in their position. The Redskins have a healthy amount of cap room this year so they can afford to give a higher initial amount this season. That means that future years won’t be as expensive, which helps ensure the Redskins have plenty of cap room when other key free agents come due (Kerrigan, Trent Williams, RGIII, Alfred Morris). This is also smart since the Redskins are in obvious need of rebuilding. If they were going all in for next season, then maybe it would be smart to have an extra couple of million to play with. Since their focus is on the future though it’s smarter to not backload the deal. Even with a more even structure, the first three seasons the cap hit is actually less than the year average.

Now the $22 million guaranteed is on the higher side for a contract like this, but it’s structured in a way to make it very beneficial for the Redskins. Typically a contract like this would see most of the guaranteed money come in the form of the signing bonus. This would help the team back load the deal, and keep the costs down early on. Here though the Redskins have most of the guaranteed money come in the form of the base salaries in the first couple of seasons. It keeps the signing bonus low, and protects the Redskins long term in case Orakpo is not worth the contract. The contract in many ways is a 3 year deal as the Redskins can cut him with just a $3 million cap penalty in 2017. That is less than the cap penalty the Redskins will face this year when they void the contract of Josh Morgan, or cut the contracts of Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen. At Orakpo’s age and production level, he could still be well worth those final two seasons of the deal, but this gives the Redskins protection in case things don’t work out.

This is a different way of doing things for the Redskins, but considering how often their previous contracts got them into trouble it is probably wise to take this kind of approach.

Why would Orakpo sign this deal?:

If this deal is so great for the Redskins than it has to be bad for Orakpo right? It’s a zero-sum game, someone has to be a “loser” in this deal according to basic free agency principals. The reality is a deal like this is good for both parties. Yes Orakpo could get more on the open market, particularly if he sells himself as a top notch 4-3 DE, but that might not be the case when all factors are considered. By giving Orakpo a higher than average guarantee, it’s potentially more attractive than having a bigger total value to the contract. In a deal like this Orakpo knows he’s a lock to stay for the first 3 years, which combined with the signing bonus, means the guarantee is more like $26 million, which is pretty nice. In a different contract structure, he might only be guaranteed $20 million between the first 3 years and the signing bonus. Yes he would maybe be in line for more total money if he plays all 5 years, but the guarantee wouldn’t be as strong.

Also while I wouldn’t call it a “home town” discount, the numbers make more sense as he wouldn’t have to move (and potentially go to a state with higher taxes) which should be factored in to decisions like that. With the Redskins, Orakpo also knows that he’s got help in a player like Ryan Kerrigan (and hopefully a lot more help after this offseason). In another situation he might not have that support and he could struggle.

Overall it’s a good, fair deal for both sides and one that the Redskins need to make as they hope to build up this defense.

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