The Washington Redskins are intent upon extending the contract of linebacker Brian Orakpo, according to a person with knowledge of the team’s plans.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo missed almost the entire 2012 season with a torn pectoral muscle. (Jonathan Newton/Washington Post) Linebacker Brian Orakpo missed almost the entire 2012 season with a torn pectoral muscle. (Jonathan Newton/Washington Post)

That person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Redskins officials consider Orakpo a key factor in the team’s defensive success and they’re hopeful of striking a deal well before Orakpo would be eligible for free agency next offseason.

It is unclear, however, if the two sides are in active negotiations about a new deal as the Redskins prepare to open training camp this week in Richmond.

Orakpo is entering the final season of his current contract. He said during the offseason that his focus was on making a successful return to the team’s lineup this season and that his prospective free agent status next year was not on his mind.

“I’m not worried about it,” Orakpo said after one offseason practice last month. “I’m concentrating on having a successful season. Everything will take care of itself.”

He was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list after only two games last season because of a torn left pectoral muscle. Orakpo suffered a similar injury in the final game of the 2011 season. The Redskins hope his return as a pass-rushing presence this season makes a major difference in a defense that ranked 30th in the league against the pass last season.

The former first-round draft choice has 29 1/2 sacks in 49 games his four NFL seasons, including 11 sacks as a rookie in 2009. He is a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

He had one sack in his two games last season.

“I don’t think we understood how much we missed ‘Rak until we saw him probably that first day of OTAs and saw him get off the ball,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said during the offseason. “We were watching old film and we were like, ‘That’s what we need, ‘Rak, every play.’… ‘Rak is in a similar situation to myself. He’s playing on a one-year deal. He has a lot to prove. He has to go out there and make plays, prove he can be healthy. We have a lot of guys who are playing with something to prove.”

More on the Redskins and training camp:

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Fans’ guide to training camp

What to look for when you get to Richmond.