NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Elite pass rushers are a premium in the NFL. The Titans landed one on Friday in three-time Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo.
With Derrick Morgan also re-signing, Tennessee now has its two cornerstone outside linebackers ready to get after the quarterback in the team's second year as a 3-4 defense.
"It was very intriguing to come here for a visit," said Orakpo, who had meetings scheduled with other teams, but never left Nashville. "Once we started talking serious, it was very relieving to come to a solution in terms of a contract."
Titans Online looks at the career of new Titans LB Brian Orakpo, a three-time Pro Bowler who began his first six seasons with the Washington Redskins. (AP Photos)
One of the NFL's top pass-rushing linebackers in recent years, Orakpo registered 40 career sacks during his time in Washington, which made him the 13th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He has four seasons with eight-plus sacks, and ranks fifth all-time in the category in Washington's franchise history.
Titans safety Michael Griffin played with Orakpo for three seasons at the University of Texas and vigorously tried to convince his college teammate to sign in Tennessee. Griffin toured Orakpo around Nashville, while answering questions from a curious Orakpo about the Titans organization.
Orakpo received all positive reviews from his good friend, a final push that helped him become a Titan.
"Griff is obviously not just a guy, he's a premier player for this organization," Orakpo said. "For him to give me the ins and outs of the organization was great. This team is on the rise and headed in the right direction. It's good to have a player that I'm friends with to help me make the transition here."
Orakpo is now a centerpiece of the team's rebuild and hopeful turnaround in 2015. The outside linebacker says he wouldn't have it any other way.
"We all know this team went 2-14 and there are some growing pains with that. At the same time it's great to come to an organization that's heading in the right direction and to be a big piece of that puzzle," Orakpo said. "I'm very ecstatic that the Titans believed in me and that I was able to leave one great organization to come to another great organization."
Orakpo's last Pro Bowl season came in 2013, a year that saw him sack the quarterback 10 times and record his first career interception that he returned for a touchdown. That season, however, was sandwiched between two seasons that ended prematurely due to injury.
Newly-signed linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan sign their contracts at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Jeff Harding)
In 2012, Orakpo landed on injured reserve after tearing his left pectoral muscle in Week 2. Last season, it was his right pectoral muscle that put him on IR again.
The injuries don't weigh on his mind as he called himself "naïve to injuries," never having dealt with anything serious prior to 2012. Once his injuries healed, there were no lingering effects. He rebounded in 2013 and expects to do so again in 2015.
At 28 years old, the Houston, Texas native remains in his prime. Is he one of the best pass rushers in the league? Orakpo has no doubts in his mind.
"Absolutely," he said before the question was finished. "You have to have that confidence and you have to believe in yourself. I know what I can do on a healthy season. I know how disruptive I can be on the field and what my presence can bring to a team like the Titans."
It's a big acquisition for the Titans front office, which said from the beginning it planned on being aggressive in free agency. General manager Ruston Webster knows signing Orakpo is a big step in his team's offseason plans.
"Outside linebacker was a position that we needed to address heading into the offseason," said Webster, acknowledging the signings of both Orakpo and Morgan. "Brian has a proven record and adds a different dimension to our group."
Orakpo now gets the benefit of playing under Assistant head coach Dick LeBeau in his 3-4 defense.
"This 3-4 defense is what I was born into. It's perfect," Orakpo said. "You're going to see how a 3-4 defense is supposed to be run."