2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top 5 Outside Linebackers

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Aug 23, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo (98) sacks Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

2. Brian Orakpo

Pros: Easily one of the league’s elite pass-rushers when healthy. Orakpo has a stellar combination of speed and power with great moves and hands who can use a combination of finesse and power to defeat blockers and finish the pass rush. He plays with a high motor, and often wins simply from sheer effort. Orakpo has recorded 40 sacks in his six year career, including four seasons of 8.5 sacks or more. He has the frame and strength to stay on the field on running downs and can hold the edge on outside runs. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler.

Cons: Significant injury history has marred two of the last three seasons, causing concerns about his durability going forward, and may cause his game to suffer as well. He lacks elite explosiveness off the line of scrimmage, both from a stand-up linebacker spot and from a hand-in-the-ground alignment. He can get pushed around the pocket at times, and also lacks a quick change-of-direction ability when needed in run defense.

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Texas Football: Brian Robison, Orakpo included in 2019 Hall of Honor class
Texas Football: Brian Robison, Orakpo included in 2019 Hall of Honor class /

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  • Scheme Fit: Orakpo has been mostly used as a 3-4 rush linebacker but at 6’3″ and about 260 pounds has the requisite size and strength to be a 4-3 weakside end, and could line up as both a 7 tech and wide 9 tech. He could also potentially fit as a “stud” linebacker in an under alignment.

    Market Value: Orakpo is a big name who has had some really strong seasons and is considered an elite pass rusher in the NFL, so he will attract some interest. He’s also relatively scheme-versatile. That said, he missed nine games in 2014 and only recorded a half sack when he was on the field for Washington, and this will scare some teams off. He’s also going to turn 29 in July. But with Justin Houston out of the mix, Orakpo is the biggest name among available pass rushers. Look for him to get a three year deal for as much as $33M.

    Would he sign with the Raiders: maybe. Orakpo does fit what the Raiders will likely be doing in 2015 defensively, and brings a Pro Bowl pedigree. But he’s 29 with recent injury history and a major decline in production last season, so he may be too reminiscent of LaMarr Woodley, and could be a bit too risky for McKenzie, especially with so many good young pass rushers in the draft.

    Next: 2015 Free Agent OLB Rankings: #3 Justin Durant