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Position Paper—Defensive Back

Jan 16, 2009, 8:47 AM EDT

The next of an occasional series about what the Redskins might do and what they should do to address personnel issues.

The defensive backfield was the strong suit of the Washington Redskins defense in 2008. For that matter, it probably was the strongest unit on the team.

It would be great if the team could just carry that area of strength into the ’09 season intact. However, some decisions must be made and some major change is possible.

The first piece of the puzzle is cornerback DeAngelo Hall. After being picked up in midseason following an unceremonious dumping by the Raiders, Hall worked his way into the starting lineup and played well. There are signs that he may be growing up and that his “MeAngelo” days are behind him. He is an unrestricted free agent and if the Redskins can get it for something like the numbers being floated around—about $12 million guaranteed and $45 million over six years—it’s a no-brainer to bring him back.

What I don’t understand is why Hall and Carlos Rogers are being presented as an either-or proposition. Rogers was playing at a Pro Bowl level for the first half of the season and he wasn’t awful when he was demoted to nickel back when Hall moved in to the starting position. He has a year left on his contract. If there is no collective bargaining agreement by next year Rogers will be a restricted free agent, meaning that the Redskins can make him a qualifying offer and get a first-round pick if he signs elsewhere. In any case, there is a good chance that the Redskins will control his rights for the next two seasons.

I can understand wanting to recoup the second-round pick that the Redskins gave up in the Jason Taylor trade and it’s likely that Rogers could fetch such a selection in a trade. But it’s unlikely—possible but unlikely—that whoever the Redskins might pick up in the second round would have the impact that Rogers will. Remember that he was coming off of major knee surgery and that nobody thought he would be able to play until October at the earliest. Rogers probably never will be an elite corner, but with an offseason devoted to conditioning and full participation in OTA’s rather than to rehab he could be a very good one. The Redskins should be looking to extend his contract rather than trade him.

If a corner must go, it should be Shawn Springs. Yes, he’s still a productive player but he carries an eight million dollar cap number this season. There would be a net savings of about $6 million if he is released. That money could go to good use in other places, like signing Hall and extending Rogers. In this case, it would be better to let him go a year too early than keep him around a year too long. All of the calf problems last year suggest that he’s becoming too slow to heal, a huge red flag.

I can take or leave Fred Smoot. He rarely gets smoked but he has trouble making plays on the ball when he’s in position to do so. There would be a cap hit of, by my estimate, about $1.5 million to release him.

The mystery man is Justin Tryon. He got into 14 games last year, mostly on special teams. Still, he saw considerable action as a dime back and you didn’t hear his name much. Generally, that’s good for a rookie defensive back. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the players ahead of him on the depth chart, Tryon just may get a chance to show what he can do in 2009.

  1. Ben Folsom - Jan 21, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    As usual very cogent Rich, I would take it a step further or perhaps maybe a step less than you have taken with Carlos and do… nothing.

    Sign DeAngelo Hall to a long term deal, his play merited it and if anyone is going to make the crap shoot on his maturity it may as well be the Redskins. He becomes your number one cornerback.

    As for Carlos, well 2009 is a contract year for him and it used to be that you could find out a lot about a player in a contract year, how hard they could play when staring at having to earn the money. Let him play angry, even if the Redskins lose him in 2010 (assuming the CBA is reworked, I do not assume it will not) they may get a strong 2009 out of him when he knows his livelihood and stature as a former first round pick is on the line.

    Shawn Springs is gone, he continued to play at a high level this season… when he was available and whether at corner or safety six to ten games in 2009 is simply not enough, the Redskins need their core defensive backs to be available all sixteen barring new injury.

    Curly R aside: This is also the reason Marcus Washington has to go, he is a devastating linebacker when in the game, made of stone, sadly his body is failing and if he cannot be predictable in that spot when the reason he is not playing so often is quote lingering injuries unquote, the team needs to move on.

    That leaves Fred Smoot as your third cornerback which is a fine role for him. He pales as a starter with the huge cushions he gives receivers, will give up long catches to keep the play in front of him and has a tendency to play the receiver not the ball, as you have indicated in this post. In that third spot where the goal is consistent with his methods, ie do not get burnt and with rotation into the number two to give the starters a blow or due to injury, the Redskins will be fine with Fred.

    Justin Tryon is pure mystery. Is he a guy you can build on? They cut Leigh Torrence, a guy who got legitimate if not hugely successful playing time, to keep Justin. Or is Justin evidence that being any 2008 Redskins draft pick except sacrificial goat Durant Brooks good for a bye in all of 2008 to make Vinny look good in his first year as shadow GM?

    In sum, the Redskins seem to have good problems at cornerback. I look forward to the rest of your position papers this offseason.

  2. Anonymous - Jan 23, 2009 at 8:07 PM

    i think some are missing the reason why springs will be back next year.

    first, when healthy, or when playing, he is easily the best corner we have on the roster. yes, his percentage of showing up is enough to cause ulcers, but when he does play, he is effective in all phases

    second, you cannot get around the fact that blache and gray love him.
    if they get their wish, he will remain on the roster. when the chips are down, having your position coach and coordinator go to bat for you is huge.

    third, he is the only corner we have who looks to be able to make the transition to hybrid cb/S.
    he gives the defense options

    as for smoot, i think he is due to earn somewhere in the range of 4 million this year. that simply wont happen. the ideal situation would be if both rogers and hall are retained. as you said, the only reason to dump rogers is if he nets out a #2 draft pick in return.
    if smoot is relegated to the #4 corner spot, it makes far more sense to keep tryon for that position. tryon plays special teams. smoot doesnt. the only way i see smoot being retained is if he takes a reduction in salary.

    in some ways it is too bad we gave up on torrence, and lost richardson off the PS. westbrook doesnt look to have enough to justify a roster spot.

    my guess is that we might be looking for a second tier veteran corner in free agency..someone to play for less than 4 million per year

    shally

  3. Walking Deadman - Jan 26, 2009 at 10:49 PM

    Rich,
    Excellent analysis. And I didn’t realize that by making Rogers a qualifying offer in 2010 we either a) get him to resign or b) get a 1st by the team that signs him away from us.

    I think Springs also has to be out man as well. But I wonder with Springs talent (when healthy) could the Redskins dangle him for a 3rd or 4th? Teams could always use a good corner (again if Springs is healthy he is a solid contributer).

  4. Rich Tandler - Jan 27, 2009 at 9:34 AM

    To be clear, Deadman, Rogers will be a restricted free agent a year from now only if there is no change in the status of the CBA. That would mean an uncapped year and a player will have to be a six-year veteran to qualify for unrestricted free agency. A lot could happen between now and then to change that.

    And I doubt that anyone will give up a draft pick for Springs. His salary is $6 million and finding a buyer at that price is a pipe dream.

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