Brian Orakpo has led Washington in sacks for four of the last five years. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo expressed both encouragement about his standing with the team and optimism over his future following Washington’s decision to use the franchise tag on him Monday afternoon.

Orakpo’s contract had expired, and he would have become an unrestricted free agent next week, but the Redskins designated him as their franchise player – using the non-exclusive tag, meaning they have the right to match any offer he receives in free agency, or would receive two first-round picks as compensation if he were to depart. Essentially, the move takes him off of the market.

“They did what they had to do,” said Orakpo, who could make around $11.455 million under the outside linebacker one-year franchise player contract. “I’m just kind of glad we can at least make a step moving forward instead of being at a stalemate with this whole situation.”

Redskins officials and Orakpo’s representatives had negotiated on a long-term deal for weeks, but didn’t succeed in putting together a contract that suited both sides. They can continue to negotiate despite the franchise tag designation, and Orakpo said he would like to be signed to a deal that extends beyond this season.

“Hopefully we can get something done as far as long-term, but at least this is a step moving forward and not backward,” Orakpo said in a telephone interview.

The 13th overall pick of the 2009 draft, Orakpo has led Washington in sacks in four out of five years – the exception being last season when he missed all but two games with a torn pectoral muscle. In the past, the Redskins have tended to pay outside free agents while letting their own players depart via free agency. But Orakpo said he took move to franchise him as a positive sign that reflects team officials’ opinion of him.

“Yeah, they’ve expressed myself being a priority being back,” he said. “Normally, the Redskins like to get rid of homegrown talent, or homegrown talent doesn’t develop the way they want to. But they prioritized myself as far as having a career here. I’m still in my prime and had the one injury setback, but still came back very strong and so i commend them on that. I want something that can work out for the both of us and this was that one step moving forward, and I’m happy to continue hopefully being a part of the Redskins and hopefully getting something done long-term eventually.”

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