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2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Safety

2017 Redskins depth chart preview: Safety

The Redskins are part of the way through the process of retooling their 2017 roster. While the major part of free agency is over, they still can add a few veterans all the way through training camp. They have 10 picks in the draft that starts April 27. In this series, we’re going to take a look at what has changed on the Redskins roster since the season ended and what they need to add to remain competitive in the revived NFC East.

So far we’ve looked at the defensive line, outside linebackers, cornerbacks, and inside linebackers.  Today the focus turns to safeties.

2016 final game starters: Duke Ihenacho, Will Blackmon

Neither was the planned starter at the beginning of the year. DeAngelo Hall was put in injured reserve in Week 4 and David Bruton was put in IR and later released.

Departures: Ihenacho, Donte Whitner (unsigned)

The Redskins showed no interest in bringing back Ihenacho, who started 10 games. The word was that the coaches thought that he freelanced too much and he led the team in missed tackles with 15 even though nine defenders played more snaps.

Whitner started nine games after being signed off the street in Week 5, a statement on how desperate the Redskins were for any kind of help. The Redskins have not shown any interest in his return.

Projected 2017 starters: Su’a Cravens, D.J. Swearinger

The move of Cravens from nickel linebacker to safety will be among the most scrutinized changes during the offseason program, in training camp, and the regular season. Speed is the primary concern. He ran a 4.69 in the 40 last year at his pro day. Only three safeties at last year’s combine ran a slower time. Jay Gruden said recently that he is confident in Cravens’ play speed; we will see how it turns out.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 8.0

Swearinger will line up at free safety. He was primarily a hard-hitting strong safety in his first two years in the NFL. After joining the Cardinals late in the 2015 season he began to play some free. The Redskins apparently liked what they saw on film enough to sign Swearinger to a free-agent contract. His ability to play in space as the last line of defense also will be under the microscope this year.  

2017 reserves: DeAngelo Hall, Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, Josh Evans

This is a shaky group. Hall will be 34 before the season ends and he has missed significant time due to injuries in each of the last three years. Blackmon played pretty well in six starts but he turns 33 around midseason.

MORE REDSKINS: Team announces preseason opponents

Evans is an interesting prospect. He was signed in Week 5, cut two weeks later, and then re-signed for the final game. Although he didn’t play a defensive snap in Washington he did start 36 games in three seasons in Jacksonville. Since Hall and Blackmon both converted from cornerback to safety just last year so Evans is by far the most experienced backup safety on the roster.

Everett, also a converted cornerback, played just 40 snaps on defense, all in the last four games. He got a key interception against the Eagles in his first appearance. The third-year player will be an interesting project to watch.   

Where can the safeties find improvement?

I think that the two new starters are the obvious path to improvement. In Cravens and Swearinger the Redskins will start two young safeties who have the potential to be around and improve for the next several years. There may be some bumps at the outset but the hope is that they can be a solid tandem.

This year’s draft in unusual in that it is strong at the safety position. With Hall and Blackmon unlikely to be around in 2018, the Redskins could use some depth at the position. If they take one early, it would take some creativity for Greg Manusky and new defensive backs coach Torian Gray to work him into the lineup. But it would be one of those good problems to have.

Locks and bubble players

Swearinger and Cravens are the only sure locks. Hall probably is, too, assuming he rebounds from his ACL tear and makes a downward adjustment to his $4.25 million salary.

The team will keep four or five safeties so Blackmon, Everett, and Evans all could stay. But adding a draft pick to the mix could have them competing for the remaining one or two roster spots.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Report: 'There isn't a real price that will make Kirk Cousins happy' with Redskins

Following a slew of reports that cast doubt on the Redskins reaching a long-term deal with Kirk Cousins, ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Tuesday that the impass is not about money. 

If the report is true, then Washington has run out of good options for retaining Cousins in the long term.

It's possible the team could use a third-straight franchise tag to keep him next season, but the price tag around $34 million would be astronomical for one season.

The transition tag would be worth in the neighborhood of $28 million. 

Russini doesn't elaborate on the reasons behind her report that Cousins wouldn't be happy in Washington regardless of price. But it's important to note that both teams and players have incentive to create leverage in contract negotiations through the media. 

The Redskins have until July 17 to reach a long-term deal with Cousins. 

MORE REDSKINS: Backup center again a question mark for the Redskins

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Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Redskins 2017 depth chart preview: Interior offensive line

Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?

Up today…

Position: Interior offensive line

On the roster: Guards Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Catalina, Kyle Kalis, Isaiah Williams; Centers Spencer Long, Chase Roullier, Ronald Patrick

Locks: Lauvao, Scherff, Kouandjio, Long

As noted here this morning, there seemed to be a pretty good chance that Lauvao would be on his way out. But free agency and the draft went by and no serious challenger for him was acquired. It looks like they will let him play out the last year of his free agent contract and then see what they want to do with him next year when he will be a 30-year-old free agent.

RELATED: 3 Redskins who are up, 3 down

The Redskins might like Kouandjio, going into his third season, to emerge as a viable option as Lauvao’s successor. He was not up to the task in a couple of spot starts last year. But, just like Lauvao, he can take some comfort in the fact that the organization did not expend any major resources on bringing in another guard for competition.

Scherff went to the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. He will be a fixture at right guard for the next decade or so, provided the Redskins can figure out a way to get a third high-priced offensive lineman under the salary cap (in addition to tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses).

Long did a solid job in his first year as the starting center. He will anchor the line again this year. He is eligible for a contract extension and it will be interesting to see if talks heat up between now and training camp.

On the bubble: Roullier

In an ideal Redskins world, the rookie sixth-round pick would be able to learn center and both guard spots well enough to be a workable fill-in on game days. In the real world, that may not work. During minicamp, offensive line coach Bill Callahan told me that while he had been impressed with how well Roullier had picked things up so far, the real test will come with the pads on in Richmond.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

Long shots: Catalina, Kalais, Williams, Patrick

You never know what will happen during the preseason but it seems that the practice squad is the best hope for any of these guys to be around Ashburn in the fall. If injury or issues with Roullier’s development create a hole in the depth chart in the 53-man roster the organization is likely to go outside to find help off the waiver wire. Two or three on this list are likely to be back for another shot in 2018.  

Redskins 2017 depth chart previews: Offensive tackle | Wide receiver

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.