The Redskins used their franchise player tag on Brian Orakpo (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

By Mark Maske and Mike Jones

The Washington Redskins have used their franchise player tag on outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, the team announced Monday.

The announcement came about 2-1/2 hours before the 4 p.m. league-wide deadline for teams to use the franchise designation.

The move all but ensures that Orakpo, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who led the team with 10 sacks last season, will remain with the Redskins.

The Redskins used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Orakpo, according to the team. He remains eligible for free agency when it begins on March 11. But the Redskins have the right to retain him by matching any offer by another team and the right to receive two first-round draft picks from his new club if they allow him to depart. The Redskins, in effect, have taken him off the market.

The team did not immediately clarify whether it used the exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tag on Orakpo. But the exclusive franchise tag is rarely used. If the Redskins used the non-exclusive version, Orakpo would remain eligible for free agency on March 11. But the Redskins have the right to retain him by matching any contract offer by another team, and the right to receive two first-round draft choices as compensation from Orakpo’s new club if they allow him to depart. The exclusive franchise tag would take Orakpo off the free agent market altogether.

Redskins officials were said to have gone back in forth in recent days over whether to devote the financial resources necessary to retain Orakpo or use that money and salary cap space to address other needs. That process continued on Monday, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. The Redskins were unable to complete a long-term contract with Orakpo before Monday’s announcement but can continue to pursue such a deal.

If Orakpo plays next season on the one-year franchise deal, it possibly could cost the Redskins more than $13 million. The franchise player tag for a linebacker is worth $11.455 million. But a person close to the situation said team officials realize Orakpo could argue he deserves the franchise player figure for a defensive end of $13.116 million, based on the number of snaps he played at each position last season.

Update (2:55 p.m.)

Orakpo’s agent, Ben Dogra, said he and Orakpo are “not surprised” about the move.

“He has enjoyed his time with the Washington Redskins, and it is clearly evident they view him as a key member of their football team,” Dogra said. “We will continue to communicate in hopes of reaching a long-term deal at some point.”

Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen did not respond to a request to comment.

The team contends that Orakpo is entitled to the franchise player figure for a linebacker of $11.455 million, according to a Redskins official. The Redskins referred to Orakpo as a linebacker in their notification to the NFL of the move. Orakpo could challenge the position at which he is franchised through a grievance and ask for the higher defensive end figure.

With the NFL having set the salary cap at $133 million per team, the Redskins were estimated to have about $30 million in available cap space. Team officials weighed whether to devote more than one-third of that salary cap room to one player, or to use those resources to address a sizable list of needs that includes several spots on defense, wide receiver and possibly multiple positions on the offensive line.

Several people familiar with the team’s planning said in recent days there were differing views within the organization and it was described as a close call. But there was no question that the Redskins liked Orakpo as a player and, economic considerations aside, they preferred to keep him. Pass rushers are a valuable commodity within the sport and Orakpo has been productive, with 39 1/2 sacks in five seasons with the Redskins since being selected in the opening round of the 2009 NFL draft out of the University of Texas.

His 10 sacks last season were his most in a year since he had 11 in his rookie season in ’09. He rebounded nicely after missing all but two games of the 2012 season because of a torn pectoral muscle and he is regarded as a good all-around defender who also plays well against the run and in pass coverage.