As the first few hours of free agency unfolded, Brian Orakpo wasn’t sure what to expect from the Redskins.
A veteran of five seasons in Washington, he was well aware of the team’s history of making a splash and signing one of the biggest names on the open market. But as the days passed, he started to sense a change in the philosophy at Redskins Park.
As it turned out, Orakpo’s gut feeling was right—and he couldn’t have been more pleased.
“It’s a different approach,” the star linebacker said Thursday, minutes after signing his $11.45 million franchise tag tender. “You need something different. You got to take things that other teams have done well to make themselves successful. We have not done a great job as far as bringing in big name guys from other teams and it panning out well for us. It has not worked.”
Orakpo added: “[General Manager] Bruce Allen did a great job switching up the mentality, getting a lot of value for his dollar. Going out there and getting depth for this football team, getting core guys that can help on special teams.”
Indeed, the Redskins have spent the first 2-½ weeks of free agency addressing a whole host of needs. They’ve signed an up-and-coming wide receiver (Andre Roberts), a proven pass-rusher (Jason Hatcher), a steady nickel corner (Tracy Porter), a starting guard (Shawn Lauvao) and three linebackers who will contribute on defense and help their struggling special teams units (Darryl Sharpton, Adam Hayward, and Akeem Jordan).
None of them are big names. But, in Orakpo’s opinion, they're all quality players who possess the potential to make a big impact.
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Orakpo said he’s particularly impressed with Roberts and Hatcher.
“The plan they have so far, man, I really love it,” he said. “The guy Roberts, from Arizona, is very underrated around the league. When you take a look on film and see the way he’s able to spread the field and make those big plays with his speed. Obviously, he’s a smaller guy but his speed is exceptional. I think he’s going to do a great job in our scheme.”
He added: “I think a guy like Hatcher is going to do his thing up the middle and push the pocket and get sacks and make our jobs [as outside linebackers] a lot easier.”
And although they aren’t free agent signings, Orakpo said he also believes the return of inside linebacker Keenan Robinson as well as safety Phillip Thomas will have a positive effect. Robinson and Thomas missed last season with injuries.
“Bringing Keenan Robinson is going to huge,” Orakpo said. “Keenan and Phil Thomas are two guys to take a look at as far as coming off of injury to see what they’re all about and see if they’re ready to step into that bigger role. So I see the future of this team is very bright.”