Since the free agency season started the Redskins have had a lot of activity surrounding the cornerback position. They released DeAngelo Hall, signed E. J. Biggers and have been actively seeking another veteran corner as they are hosting former Viking Antoine Winfield today.
But what about the other half of the secondary, the back end? When it comes to the safety position we’ve heard crickets.
The contract of last year’s starting free safety, Madieu Williams, expired and there has been no word of any effort to bring him back. There has been no activity on the free agent front at the position.
On the roster now are four players who played strong safety last year. Brandon Meriweather is the projected starter at the position. That spot should be fine as long as he has recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in his only 2012 game appearance. That was in Week 11 in mid-November. That means there will be about nine months between his injury and the start of the regular season. We have not heard that Meriweather’s rehab is “ahead of schedule” but even on a normal schedule he should be good to go in September. We will know more about his progress when OTA’s commence in May.
Meriweather missed the first nine games of the season with a different knee issue so a trio of players split the job in his absence. Reid Doughty started 10 games at strong safety and DeJon Gomes started three. Jordan Pugh, an early season pickup, was in the strong safety rotation as well.
Jordan Bernstine, a 2012 seventh-round pick, is also on the roster. He was a surprise member of the 53-man roster coming out of camp but his season ended in Week 1 when he tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL while covering a kickoff. Bernstine could figure in to the picture pending his rehab progression.
With the salary cap penalty, none of the top free agent safeties like Ed Reed or Dashon Goldson were realistic options. The possibility of Bucs veteran Ronde Barber rejoining Raheem Morris, his former position coach and head coach in Tampa Bay, has been floated but it appears that was mostly speculation.
Former Cardinal Kerry Rhodes and ex-Packer Charles Woodson are the next-best safeties available but neither one of them has drawn any interest from the Redskins. Those two and the rest of the available free agents may not be an upgrade over what the Redskins have on their roster now.
That leaves the draft as the primary way the Redskins will have to add talent to the safety position. It would be a stunning upset if they did not use one of their first two picks (rounds 2 and 3, picks 51 and 85) on a safety. Most experts see this draft class being very strong and deep at the position. Some of the names being floated as possibilities are Johnathan Cyprien, D. J. Swearinger, Baccari Rambo, and Phillip Thomas. Some may not be available when the Redskins pick and they might find another player at another position to be too good a value to pass up. But it seems likely that the Redskins will come out of the Friday night session with a safety.
They could put the rookie in as the starter and let him learn on the job. Or they might go with Meriweather and either Doughty or Gomes as the starters and let the rookie play in situations until he is ready to start.
There are some unknown factors to deal with here. One is Meriweather’s knee. Just because he should be ready that doesn’t mean that he will be ready. Another is Tanard Jackson, who may or may not come off of a drug suspension on August 31 and may or may not be able to contribute when he does. And relying on a draft pick, especially one taken after the top 50 picks, to contribute heavily as a rookie, is risky business as well.
At least spending a high draft pick at the position could give it the underpinnings of some long-term stability. A year from now both Meriweather and Doughty will be over the age of 30 and free agents. Pugh’s contract is up after this year and Gomes has two more left on his.
The safety position has been in flux ever since Sean Taylor’s death in 2007. It probably will remain that way in 2013 but perhaps they can get half of the puzzle solved in the draft.