- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2014

Teams hoping to keep a pending free agent under contract for at least one more season will be able to use the franchise designation that player for the first time beginning Monday.

Such a move could offer the Washington Redskins the ability to retain outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, whose rookie contract is set to expire when the league year opens on March 11. Orakpo had a career-high 60 tackles, including 10 sacks, in 2013 and is considered to be the best pass-rusher available in the free agent market this offseason.

If the Redskins were to designate Orakpo, 27, as their franchise player, he would be offered a one-year contract worth the average salary of the top five highest-paid players at his position – which, for linebackers, will be approximately $11 million.

Washington will have two weeks to make a decision, as the period for extending offers under the franchise tag will expire on March 3. Such an offer does not prevent Orakpo and the Redskins from negotiating a long-term deal; players who are given such an offer have until July 15 to sign a longer contract.

Orakpo will likely command approximately $11 million annually in a new contract. Paul Kruger signed a five-year deal with the Cleveland Browns last March that will earn him approximately $8 million a year, while Clay Matthews signed a six-year contract extension with the Green Bay Packers a month later with an average salary of $11.5 million a year.

Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said two weeks ago that the Redskins have begun casual contract talks with Orakpo’s agents, but that he didn’t expect such discussions to heat up until this week. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has repeatedly said he would like to see the Redskins keep Orakpo.

The Redskins have rarely used the franchise tag since it was introduced in 1993. Tight end Fred Davis was designated as the team’s franchise player following the 2011 season, which allowed it to keep him on a one-year contact.

None of the Redskins‘ other 20 free agents are candidates to be given the franchise designation.