This was not supposed to be Brian Orakpo Day on the blog, but that’s what it turned into. Not only is there discussion about whether or not he should receive the franchise tag, but now you have to wonder about the impact of Terrell Suggs’ deal on Orakpo’s next contract.
Suggs has the impressive career numbers and was the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. Orakpo has not come close to that sort of honor (it took Suggs nine years to reach that point). Suggs has played on defenses that are much better than any Orakpo has been on, which perhaps has given him more chances to rush the passer.
But there’s a difference between the two and it’s why Orakpo likely won’t have to settle for a similar deal.
Suggs will turn 32 during the season and exiting his prime; Orakpo will be 28 next season, still in his prime (though it’s always better to catch players at the beginning of their prime, not midway through it).
That’s why the Ravens could reduce his salary Monday, taking him from a contract that would have resulted in a $12.4 million cap hit to $7.4 million. But he was able to receive an extension plus $16 million in guaranteed cash; that’s not bad. So, in essence, he’s getting $8 million per year the next two seasons. It's better than the deals received by 30-something pass-rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham a year ago, giving Suggs a good reason to take this deal. I'm guessing Orakpo will probably get a deal that averages around $10 million a year, just because he has a couple more years left in his prime.
And here’s what ESPN.com’s Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley, who has covered the team a long time, wrote about the deal: “There is some risk involved in extending Suggs. His game has been in decline the past two seasons. He missed half of the 2012 season after tearing his Achilles tendon and he picked up weight in the second half of the 2013 season, which led to one sack in his final eight games and a reduced number of snaps. But, considering what the Ravens have to address in the draft and free agency, they didn't have the luxury to spend money in free agency or use a draft pick on a pass-rusher this offseason.”
Orakpo is coming off a strong finish -- seven sacks in his last seven games -- and had no issues with the torn pectoral muscle that sidelined him for 14 regular-season games in 2012. He’s the best available pass rushing outside linebacker scheduled to hit the open market -- how good remains up for debate. I don't view him as elite, but rather as an above average player. Last offseason Paul Kruger received a deal that averaged $8 million per year in Cleveland with $20 million guaranteed (the number that matters most). Orakpo is better.
The demand for pass rushers hasn’t lessened. In fact, while Seattle’s secondary received a ton of attention (by myself included), it’s the Seahawks’ pass rush that allowed them to play a certain way.
It’s hard to imagine that Orakpo won’t benefit from his first foray into free agency, even after Suggs’ deal. Their situations are different.