The Redskins’ area of greatest need this offseason may be the toughest to fill.
They got through last year with a patchwork safety corps. On his best days free safety Madieu Williams was barely adequate, on his worst days he cost the team games. The Redskins couldn’t find anyone to handle the strong safety position on every down so they had to make do with a rotation of Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes, and Jordan Pugh. None of them played well enough to take a firm grip on the job.
They had not planned on using the makeshift group but free safety starter Tanard Jackson was hit with a one-year drug suspension just before the start of the regular season and Brandon Meriweather’s knee problems kept him out of the lineup for all but about a half of one game.
But you knew all of that. What you might not know is that it may be very difficult for the Redskins to solidify the position.
This goes beyond the team’s issues with the $18 million salary cap penalty and the lack of a first-round pick in the draft. There just aren’t enough quality safeties. They all want to be cornerbacks.
To me, that’s the hardest position to evaluate in college football is safeties. The guys that used to be the most explosive athletes and were playing in the back end, they’re going to play corner because they feel like maybe at corner, they can play 10 years. You look at the franchise tag numbers, the corner position is higher than the safety position. That is going to be the constant struggle. When you talk to people around the league, it’s hard to find safeties.
With the NFL becoming more and more of a passing league, a trend that shows no sign of abating, teams need safeties who can cover. The in-the-box safety who specializes is stopping the run is becoming a dinosaur. As Jim Haslett told me, “if you have one of them, you’d better not have another.”
As Roseman noted, since safeties have to be able to cover anyway, a lot of would-be safeties are becoming cornerbacks instead since they tend to have longer careers and bigger contracts.
With the franchise tag salary for a safety sitting at just shy of $6.8 million, that virtually assures that the top would-be free agents at the position such as Dahson Goldson, Jairus Byrd, and Williams Moore are likely to be tagged. The laws of supply and demand will drive up the cost of players at the position who are not free agents.
They could, and probably will, take a safety in the second or third round if the right guy is on the board. But Roseman says they are hard to evaluate so they can’t necessarily count on whoever they take being able to start in 2013.
It will be interesting to see how the Redskins go about solving the safety problem. If you go by what Roseman is saying, they will have to be creative.