Things have become somewhat muddled for Brian Orakpo. Once the unquestioned star in the nation’s capital, suddenly his future is clouded by injury as NFL free agency looms for him. A regression in 2013 could mean he must find a new team in 2014. Are the Green Bay Packers poised for a rare free agent move?
Washington Redskins hoping Orakpo reverts to form
Two years ago it was a foregone conclusion. The Washington Redskins knew they had to collect the needed money to make Brian Orakpo their highest paid star on defense. He’d only missed one game between 2009 and 2011 and produced 28.5 sacks in that span. No other Redskins defender came close. So one might say the Pro Bowler picked a really bad time to suffer a season-ending injury. Last year Orakpo was forced to the sideline after just two games with a torn pectoral muscle. It was the third injury on that area of his body in a nine month span. That is the kind of thing that scares teams since it means the player could become a liability because a single part of his body can’t take the physical grind of football anymore. It’s similar to how many NBA centers don’t last because of repeated foot injuries. Washington knows they must be careful with their money. Orakpo needs not just a productive season in 2013 but must show his body can hold up. Another costly injury may force the Redskins to let him test the market next year.
Packers can try limited FA strike after Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers lock ups
Ironically one of the top teams that may want to take a stab at him is a team that almost never makes a big signing in free agency. The Green Bay Packers are almost solely a draft-driven team under the guidance of GM Ted Thompson. It has served them well for the most part. They have reached the playoffs every year since 2009 and won the Super Bowl in 2010. At the heart of their success are two star players in linebacker Clay Matthews and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers stayed focused on making sure both of them were locked up before they too had a chance to reach free agency. This proved a success as each landed a lucrative new deal. Now the team can focus on filling out the roster around them with more talent. A key part of that is free agency. Green Bay should have over $14 million in salary cap space by March of 2014. While not a huge sum, it is more than enough for one big signing.
The reason Brian Orakpo makes sense is his fit in their scheme. They have needed a consistent second threat at outside linebacker opposite Matthews for years. Experiments with names like Erik Walden and Nick Perry have had disappointing results. Bringing Orakpo in with his 8+ sacks per season average would take so much pressure off Matthews to provide the pass rush. The key factors to this happening are what Green Bay plans for its own pending free agents like B.J. Raji and Sam Shields. If they can work through the numbers then the Packers could make their first big free agent moves in years.