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Brian Orakpo: Potential Jets

Larry French

Brian Orakpo just completed his fifth NFL season. The Texas product is now set to become a free agent. Widely considered the top 3-4 outside linebacker available, Orakpo's production has been steady in the NFL. Aside from 2012 when injuries limited him to 2 games, he has always had been 50 and 60 tackles and 8.5 and 11 sacks per year.

His run defense seemed to get better in 2013, but he's more functional in that area and in coverage than great. What Orakpo does best is get to the quarterback. The big knock on his pass rushing is that he has limited moves. All he has are the speed rush and the bull rush, but he's been pretty effective. When you combined his sacks with his hits and hurries, Orakpo finished 2013 with 51 according to Pro Football Focus. That ranks him 11th of the 25 3-4 outside linebackers who played at least half of their team's snaps.

I think the Jets definitely need to get younger and more explosive off the edge. Their strength on the interior line creates a massive opportunity. The big guys like Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are such a handful that they draw extra help, leaving favorable one on one matchups on the edge. An explosive edge rusher capable of regularly exploiting these could transform the defense.

I think an Orakpo type player could be a big addition, but I'm not sure whether I want Orakpo to be that guy. Money is the issue. If we are talking around the $5 million Elvis Dumervil is getting, I'd be very interested. I'm less interested if we are talking in excess of $10 million like Terrell Suggs, Lamarr Woodley, and Tambi Hali. I am inclined to believe Orakpo will be on the more expensive side. Pass rushers are a sought after commodity. When one hits the market, teams bid high amounts. Orakpo is a good starter, but I don't see the kind of guy who redefines a defense. The Jets need a good starter, but I think there will be cheaper options out there almost as good who will provide more bang for the buck.

I would be kind of surprised to see the Jets make a big play for Orakpo. If there are two positions where the Jets have not spent premium resources on defense under Rex Ryan, they are safety and outside linebacker. The team has never even used a Draft pick on an outside linebacker. The Rex edge rushers have been young under the radar guys (Westerman, Maybin), Mangini holdovers (Pace, Thomas), a cheap veteran type (Taylor), and a guy who changed positions because the Jets had collected a glut of talent at his original spot (Coples).

Again, while I think the Jets could use some more explosion off the edge to take advantage of that defensive line, there are other ways to find it. Of course they should check what Orakpo would demand, but I would not be interested unless he was willing to take less than top dollar.