When free agency opens March 11, the Redskins will have about $30 million in cap space and lots of holes to fill. Over the next few weeks, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the field of potential free agents, by position, and evaluate who might be a fit in Washington.
Today, we’re looking at safeties.
Background: Finding an upgrade at safety (and perhaps a pair of them) must be a priority for Redskins this offseason. Brandon Meriweather was adequate in 2013, but he’s 30, a pending free agent and, perhaps, one helmet-to-helmet hit away from a lengthy suspension. Reed Doughty, a reserve who is too often pressed into the starting lineup because of persistent depth issues, is also scheduled to become a free agent. And it’s too early to know if/when second year players Phillip Thomas (foot surgery) and Bacarri Rambo (rough rookie season) will make an impact.
Best available: Jairus Byrd, Bills. Arguably the best safety in the game, the hard-hitting three-time Pro Bowler will likely get paid accordingly this offseason. Despite missing the first five games of 2013 due to plantar fasciitis, Byrd, 27, still made four interceptions. Buffalo hopes to re-sign him to a long term extension and he probably will too expensive for the Redskins, particularly if he gets the $9 million per season he’s reportedly seeking.
Best fit: Chris Clemons, Dolphins. With pricey options such as Byrd and the Browns’ T.J. Ward long shots due to cost and the number of other needs in Washington, Clemons figures to be an enticing option. Last season, the 28-year-old ranked fourth on the Dolphins with 92 tackles, picked off one pass and defended eight others. Clemons could also be an affordable upgrade who could provide a bridge to Thomas, Rambo or another long term solution.
Best of the rest: Ward is a top-notch safety and, like Byrd, will get paid like one, putting him out of the Redskins' reach; Donte Whitner (49ers) rates just behind Byrd and Ward and will be coveted by many teams … if he’s not re-signed by San Francisco; Louis Delmas (Lions) became a cap casualty this week and has only played in all 16 games only once; Stevie Brown (Giants) had eight interceptions in 2012 but was sidelined last season with an ACL tear; Mike Mitchell (Panthers) is only 26 and had four interceptions and four sacks for the NFL’s No. 2 ranked defense.