The Brian Orakpo era in Washington has come to an end as the three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher agreed to terms on a contract with the Tennessee Titans, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed.
Orakpo, the 13th overall pick of the 2009 draft and Washington’s franchise player in 2014, is coming off of yet another disappointing season after managing only a half-sack in seven games and then spending the final nine weeks of the season on injured reserve because of a torn pectoral muscle.
Thus ended a season that Orakpo entered with plenty of riding on it, and with high expectations. He posted 10 sacks in 2013 (only the second double-digit sack campaign of his career), but failed to work out a long-term deal with Washington the following offseason. So the Redskins used the franchise tag to retain his services, paying him $11.455 million for the 2014 season.
Then-defensive coordinator Jim Haslett planned to use a more aggressive approach with his pass rushers, and Orakpo relished the opportunity to prove his worth and his status as one of the elite pass rushers in the league. But the linebacker failed to deliver, struggling to get to the quarterback, and then suffering another injury.
This offseason, Orakpo and his representatives had talks with Washington about re-signing, but those negotiations never progressed to the point where the two sides were on the verge of an agreement. Redskins officials, including new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, saw value in Orakpo, people familiar with the situation said. But because of his injury history (last year’s marked his third torn pectoral muscle and his second season in the last three years that he had landed on IR), General Manager Scot McCloughan and team President Bruce Allen had serious reservations about giving Orakpo a lucrative deal.
People within the organization maintained contact with Orakpo’s camp, but were resigned to the fact that Orakpo would depart via free agency.
The Titans and Arizona Cardinals pursued Orakpo, and he visited Tennessee first on Wednesday. He wound up remaining in Nashville on Thursday, and early Friday morning agreed to a contract that Fox Sports reported is for four years, $32 million, with $13.5 million guaranteed.
Orakpo never made it to Arizona for his visit with the Cardinals.
Despite his three Pro Bowl appearances, Orakpo’s tenure in Washington is viewed by many as a disappointment because his lack of double-digit sacks, his injuries and his struggles against NFC East opponents. In his 25 games versus division opponents, Orakpo mustered only seven sacks. He recorded 33 sacks in the other 46 games of his career.
The linebacker’s departure confirms Washington’s need to add a dominant pass rusher in this spring’s draft. Fifth-year veteran Ryan Kerrigan returns on the left side, where he racked up a career-high 13.5 sacks last season. But no proven options for the right side (opposing quarterbacks’ blind side) exist on the roster.
Washington holds the fifth overall pick in the draft, and the talent evaluators have spent time studying the top outside linebackers in this year’s crop of talent, including Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, Florida’s Dante Fowler and Missouri’s Shane Ray, who all figure to be available that high in the draft.