Redskins mailbag: Orakpo’s tag impact, remaining needs, and more

LeSean McCoy, Perry Riley Jr.

Inside linebacker Perry Riley remains unsigned as free agency approaches. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins on Monday essentially took top pass rusher Brian Orakpo off the market by slapping him with the franchise tag. Starting Saturday, teams can begin negotiating with outside free agents, and players can sign deals with new teams Monday.

It should be an interesting couple of weeks as the Redskins try to overhaul their roster.

In today’s mailbag, we tackle the impact of Orakpo’s franchise player deal, remaining holes on the roster, and a couple of other issues, including the team’s name.

Thanks as always for taking part, and keep the questions coming for next week’s mailbag. E-mail questions to me at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line of “Mailbag question.”

Here we go.

Now that the Redskins have tagged Orakpo, how much of his salary counts against the cap this season? Why wouldn’t they have signed him to a long-term contract which would reduce the cap hit this year?

– Kerry Triplett

The Redskins were going to have about $30 million in cap space to address their many needs. Now that they have used the franchise tag on Orakpo, that means roughly $11.455 million of that $30 million is committed to him. All of that one-year salary counts against the cap. That’s why the Redskins would have preferred to work out a long-term deal. But they had a different opinion of Orakpo’s value than did the linebacker and his agent. Orakpo and his camp most likely had their eye on the contract the Packers gave Clay Matthews in 2013 (six years, roughly $69 million). His deal carries an average cap hit of around $11.8 million. But the structure of that deal was more cap-friendly for Green Bay in the first year. Matthews received a $20 million signing bonus and had only a $1.02 million base salary and a prorated figure of $5.19 million, plus a $500,000 workout bonus, which all translated to a salary cap hit of $6.7 million in Year 1. The cap figure jumps into the low teens in each of the next five years, however. So you can see how working on that long-term deal would have benefited the Redskins for this year. But if they didn’t believe that Orakpo was worth that kind of money, then they couldn’t give him that kind of payday. Because the sides couldn’t find a middle ground, Washington’s decision makers deemed Orakpo worthy of the franchise tag so they wouldn’t be left with a big hole at right outside linebacker. The team can, however, continue to negotiate with Orakpo toward a long-term deal.

Does the NFL have the “Transitional Player” tag anymore, or is there only the Franchise Player tag? I was thinking that the Redskins could use transitional tag on Orakpo, and then pay him lesser than what a franchise player tag would be.

  – A. Nathaniel Wallace Jr.

The NFL does still have the transition tag, although teams don’t use it often. The Cleveland Browns used it on center Alex Mack yesterday, however. The problem with the transition tag is that it’s far less a deterrent for other teams looking to poach your player. Yes, it might save you a million or two, but the only thing it guarantees you is the right to match an opposing team’s contract offer. Say you decide that the contract offer is stupid money, and you let that player walk, then you get nothing in return. The franchise tag ensures that you get to match a contract offer, or you get two first-round draft picks if you don’t and the player leaves.

I have heard linebacker Brandon Spikes from New England mentioned as a top-dollar free agent for our Skins. Didn’t he tear up his knee? I also think center is the most important position for Griffin’s growth. Is Alex Mack available, and at what cost?

– Walter

I don’t know that the Redskins have actual interest in Spikes, but he is certainly one of the better inside linebackers on the market. San Diego removed Donald Butler (another top free agent at that spot) from the market last week by signing him to a seven-year, $48 million deal. That deal probably sets the pay scale at the position for this offseason. Spikes battled a knee injury this past season, but he played in all 16 games. Spikes has struggled in pass coverage, but is traditionally strong against the run. It’s unclear what kind of money he’s looking for, and now after dedicating roughly a third of their cap money to Orakpo, the Redskins might not be able to afford to sign two top inside linebackers. They might have to dedicate their efforts to retaining Perry Riley and then go with a more affordable option for his sidekick. Mack is a free agent, but the Browns slapped him with the transition tag, a move that places a value of just more than $10 million on his head for one season.

Now that the Chargers have essentially set the market to a degree on inside linebackers with Butler’s deal coming in at around $6.8 million a year average, how is it people can still complain that Riley, who doesn’t have an injury history, is only worth about $4 million a year on average max? Secondly, where is the logic in the Skins tagging Orakpo at $11.5 million when a long-term deal at the same $11.5 million on average would likely only cost them about $5.5-7 million against this year’s cap? Again looks to me like the Skins are under valuing their own. I’m going to be very interested to see what free agents they go after, especially with the Dolphins setting the corner market giving Brent Grimes $8 million a year. Think that should have just priced us out of the Talib market?

– Dirk Jordan

 Butler signing his deal is probably a good thing for the Redskins. He is probably a little better than Riley, whom I had heard was hoping to get a payday similar to the five-year contract that Miami’s Dannell Ellerbe signed last year, worth roughly $7 million per year. It’s unclear where he and Washington stand in negotiations, but he could test the free agent market to better gauge his worth. … On Orakpo, yes, the Redskins would’ve liked to have worked out a long-term deal. But it probably wasn’t wise to give a monster contract to a player who hasn’t proven himself as a consistently elite pass rusher. He’s very good, but he needs to increase his quarterback pressures, sacks and turnovers forced. The Redskins will have a higher cap hit this year, but this at least gives Orakpo another year to prove himself, and they can continue to negotiate with him without fear of losing him to another team without compensation. You’re probably right about Washington’s chances of landing Aqib Talib. I had heard in the last couple of weeks that New England probably wasn’t going to let him get away. And, now that Miami has signed Brent Grimes to a four-year, $32 million extension, Talib likely will want a deal that pays him around $9 million a year. Washington – which now appears to have gotten DeAngelo Hall for a bargain deal of $4.25 million a year when they re-signed him last month – likely isn’t going to jump into that bidding war for Talib, because they still have plenty of needs, including both safety positions, inside linebacker, wide receiver and offensive line.

With all the talk of the NFL regulating the use of slurs on the field, it seems to me that if they do so, they would open themselves up to charges of hypocrisy from opponents of the Redskins name. How could the NFL make that move and not also face tremendous pressure to unilaterally change the Redskins name, as well? I haven’t noticed anyone else mentioning this, but it seems to me that a name change would be inevitable. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

– John Lemons

I see your point, and the point of those who argue against the name. But right now, there isn’t enough of an outcry around the league to force a change. Either the league higher-ups don’t see it the same way, or don’t care. A lot of it probably has to do with money. The Washington Redskins are the third-most profitable NFL franchise behind Dallas and New England, despite the fact that the team hasn’t ranked among the consistent contenders since the ’80s. To prompt Roger Goodell and Daniel Snyder to make a move, it would take the league’s other owners speaking out and corporate sponsors such as FedEx, Budweiser and others threatening to back out of their agreements. Right now, such actions don’t appear close to happening.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

More from The Post:

Orakpo encouraged by team’s move to tag him

Reid: Orakpo move was not the route to go

Redskins use franchise tag on Orakpo

Redskins re-sign safety Jose Gumbs

NFL sets salary cap at $133 million

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