The Washington Redskins must give outside linebacker Brian Orakpo a new long-term deal. Securing the future of their premier pass-rusher should be an offseason priority for the cash-strapped Redskins.
According to washington.cbslocal.com, the Redskins will push to secure a new deal for Orakpo. It is the smartest move Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen can make, although it won't be easy.
The Redskins are still adapting in the market, thanks to last year's league-imposed salary cap penalty. They are $4 million over the cap this year, according to ESPN.com's John Clayton.
Yet that harsh fiscal reality shouldn't mask how much the Redskins need Orakpo. He is the prolific edge-rusher every 3-4 scheme needs. He has compiled 29.5 sacks in just over three seasons.
However, durability has been an issue and could convince some Orakpo doesn't merit a new deal, particularly a lengthy one. He missed 15 games last season with the same shoulder injury that has plagued him earlier in his career.
However, no other outside linebacker on the roster offers the prolific pass-rush skills Orakpo possesses. He has the initial quickness and burst of power, to consistently collapse the edges of the pocket.
In his absence, Rob Jackson filled in capably, but couldn't create the same amount of pressure. Ryan Kerrigan toiled admirably on the strong side but simply wasn't as dominant.
The Redskins defense certainly sufferedin 2012 without Orakpo's rush skills. The unit finished 28th in total yards allowed, yielding 377.7 per game. More importantly, they ranked 30th against the pass, surrendering an average of 281.9 yards through the air.
While many of the problems were caused by a paucity of talent in the secondary, a feeble pass-rush also contributed. The Redskins managed only 32 sacks all season, ranking 23rd in the NFL in this crucial category.
Nothing fixes a suspect pass defense as quickly as consistent pressure. Orakpo is the Redskins best means for creating that pressure. He is the versatile rush end that coordinator Jim Haslett's zone-blitzing 3-4 scheme demands.
Free agency doesn't offer many plausible alternatives to Orakpo for the cap-challenged 'Skins. They also have no first-round pick thanks to the trade for Robert Griffin III. Besides, the Redskins have more pressing needs, in the secondary and along the offensive line, in the 2013 NFL draft.
The cap issues are a major challenge for Shanahan and Allen. However, some tweaking of their financial outlay could create valuable space for Orakpo's new deal. Restructuring contracts for big-earners like cornerback DeAngelo Hall, would be a good start.
The Redskins thrived this season thanks to their prolific offense. However, if they hope to retain the NFC East title and make more of an impact in the playoffs in 2013, they must commit to fixing their defense.
That process must start with keeping Orakpo in D.C. for the long-term.