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The Redskins have major needs in the middle of their defense

Jan 30, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

Meriweather_Eagles

A Washington Post report cleared up some confusion and confirmed that Brandon Meriweather’s contract does void five days after the Super Bowl, making the Redskins’ starting safety an unrestricted free agent starting March 11. Let’s take a look at what this means for the Redskins’ salary cap and their depth chart.

The cap implications are straightforward. Meriweather was slated to make a salary of $3 million and he had a $400,000 bonus proration to make his cap number $3.4 million. When his contract voids, the $3 million will come off of the books but dead cap totaling $1.2 million will accelerate to this season. That leaves a net savings of $2.2 million.

Add that to the previous estimate of cap space and it gives the Redskins around $30 million in cap space for 2014. That number could increase further if the NFLPA decides to exercise an option that would add another $2 million to the cap. The Redskins also could create more room by releasing some veteran players.

A look at the depth chart shows very little depth left at safety. Meriweather, Reed Doughty, and E. J. Biggers, who combed to start most of the games at safety in 2013, are all free agents. Bacarri Rambo is the most experienced returning safety and the rookie had all of three starts and 340 defensive snaps in 2013. He struggles and was benched. Jose Gumbs started one game and played 84 snaps. Trenton Robinson, picked up during the season mostly to try to bolster special teams, played 34 snaps.

The best of the lot could be Phillip Thomas, last year’s fourth-round draft pick. But he spent the entire season on injured reserve after suffering a Lisfranc injury in the preseason. Even before he got injured he didn’t look like someone the team could count on to be a starter this year.

They almost have to jump into the free agent market to get immediate help while Thomas, Gumbs, Rambo and perhaps another draft pick get a chance to develop. The top names like Jairus Byrd of the Bills and Buffalo’s T. J. Ward are likely to cost too much. Last week we looked at a few names of some more moderately-priced options including Michael Mitchell of the Panthers and Chris Clemons of the Dolphins.

They could bring back Meriweather and Doughty but both of them are now on the wrong side of 30 and the team could use an upgrade.

But they have to do something. Looking at the big picture, the Redskins now have a huge hole in the middle of their defense. In addition to the situation at safety, neither of last year’s starting inside linebackers is under contract. London Fletcher is retiring and Perry Riley is a free agent. Although it seem likely that Riley will be back in the fold, how Bruce Allen handles this area will go a long way towards determining how successful the team will be in Jay Gruden’s first year on the job.

  1. dcsportsfan2277 - Jan 30, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Totally agree this is the 2nd most important need to be filled after RT! I like that you would like the Skin’s to avoid Byrd and Ward and I feel we can get 2 quality players for what it will cost for either of them.

    Thankfully, this is a fairly deep draft at positions we need to fill. I hope Brown and Campbell are working overtime on researching the potential picks and possible FA signings!

    Keep Doughty for depth and special teams and give Phillip Thomas a good look. Hopefully, he will have learned by watching film while rehabbing!

  2. ajbus1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Is it time to consider using the “R” word? (rebuild!)

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Not sure how else you would put it when you’re talking about a 3-13 team with 20 free agents.

  3. coachemup1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Of course it is a rebuild. Allen says they need 20 new players! How often do you shop for back ups? While we do need to secure our depth, they are looking for a one season turn around. In reality it isn’t just Polumbus. You gould change that side including over to Montgomery and make a easy upgrade. But I see montgomery maybe survivng. Then you need a big time guy in the slot. I am betting on Robinson outside with experience and coaching. On D a big time ND would help. We have to have two safeties, a ILB that is above averge and Maybe two corners. Amerson was mediocre , Wilson isn’t worth comment and MeAngelo had one good year while losing a step. Thomas was average and got hurt. Isn’t like he is expected to do anything. Ramgo? Adious. Guys were playing on a team that had NO personal aren’t the same ones that start when you aren’t down 36 mill. Back ups on a team like that get jobs at Walmart.

  4. Delvin Perkins - Jan 30, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Rich, I think we should sign S. Shields or W. Thurmond. Re-sign D-hall and move him to FS if needed. I also like Jimmy Ward from N. Illinois at Safety. And K. McGill from Utah or Baptiste from Nebraska.

  5. Delvin Perkins - Jan 30, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    We should also trade a low round pick for Jonathan Martin. Draft Jordan Matthews from Vandy to play opposite Garcon. Sign D. Butler from SD to replace Fletch. Pick an additional LB up in later rounds of draft. Pick the best available player with 3-5 round picks.

    • uniqueblac - Jan 30, 2014 at 3:42 PM

      I like the idea for Martin.

  6. coachemup1 - Jan 30, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    I like the idea of Martin but now that he has poked his head out for Super Bowl week attention I don’t know. It would take a loooong conversation. I don’t want to see us relying on to many rookies

  7. kenlinkins - Jan 30, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    Rich, It seems to me that we had a large hole in the middle of our defense most of 2013 (i.e. no pass rush from DT, ILB missing tackles / poor pass coverage, SS/FS concerns) so we knew this was on “The To Do List” for this off season. Also, thanks for the great information. I have learned more about the inside working of the Redskins from your site then any others out there, and your willingness to answer questions is outstanding. I hope more people find your Web Site.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 30, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      Thanks much. We’ve had about a quarter of a million unique visitors this month and over 600,000 page views so the word is getting out!

      • kenlinkins - Jan 30, 2014 at 5:38 PM

        Well now, it will soon be time to increase the amount for AD space. Nothing like good Redskins reporting to help sell (just ask the Washington Post, they have lived on it for years) Good Luck.

  8. internetcareer - Jan 30, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    The MOST important need is not right tackle. When your whole interior is pushed back, back, back consistenly then you can’t always blame the tackle. If the QB cannot step up away from the outside pressure then you get those fumbles. as we saw, and you will end up with more pressure and sacks. The MOST important position for this team is a combination of Center and Guard. Replace two guys in Montgomery and Chester and immediately that offense is a better unit. More time to pass means less than 8 and 9 men in the box waiting on Morris.

  9. redskinscaio - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:21 PM

    Why is there Dead cap money on Merriweather’s contract? You mean he has one year left and they’re cutting him anyway? I don’t understand. If his contract was just for last year, and it expires five days after the Super Bowl, then why is there dead cap money? And then you ask the question of possibly resigning Merriweather? I’m confused

  10. redskinscaio - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    So once again, the Redskins are cutting a player with years left on his contract which creates dead cap money. Is that the jist of your article? That Merriweather is being cut while he still has one year left on his contract for 3.4 million? So why would the Redskins cut a guy in a position of need, which creates DEAD CAP MONEY for a player making only 3.4 million this year? Byrd and the other top free agents at the position are getting more than double that. Then they still have to sign someone to fill his spot, and Merriweather was the best safety the Skins had last year and have this year. Why does Bruce Allen still have a job. Worst GM in all professional sports….

    • redskinscaio - Jan 30, 2014 at 9:29 PM

      It’s Bruce Allen’s fault the Skins were penalized 36 million dollars. Well, it’s his responsibility anyway…He needs to go.

      • Bryan - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:27 AM

        People you can blame Bruce but what he did in the un capped year was leagal the Maras of the world were upset cuz they were to dumb to think of it so that’s where the 36mil penalty came from as far as cutting Brandon it’s voiding n it’s saving them what did rich say 2 mil the dead money will be this year so why not save 2 mil n a low end safety is gone. We need to build interior online especially if we gonna see more power running move Codie’s to end put baker n neild as nt n let Jarvis n another fa play other end. Sign Riley n either get kid from sandiego or draft rookie from Wisconsin. Sign hall n draft fuller out of va tech n get medium priced fa to to go with amerson. I like to get safety from alamabma or northern Illinois n then sign a top notch safety but don’t break bank on any fa not even orakpo n I love orackpo but Jason worlds would be cheaper if orackpo thinks he is clay Mathews money

        • Rich Tandler - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:55 AM

          Why is Woirlds cheaper? Because he’s not nearly the player Orakpo is. You’re not a Hokie fan, are you?

  11. coachemup1 - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    He couldn’t over rule the Snyde. He wanted another big splash. I think Chester and Polumbus are both way gone. maybe Chester stays as a back up. Montgomery needs to go but how many can you change? But the rush up the middle was a joke. Not being able to step up is correct.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 31, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      Not sure who you’re replying to here but Shanahan had 100% control over all personnel decisions. He could overrule Snyder on any and all football matters. It was in his contract.

      • Bryan - Jan 31, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        Rich I am a longhorn fan to be honest with you and love orackpo but worilds would be cheaper n I think he would be a suitable replacement. That being said I would prefer orackpo but not at clay Mathews money infact, we just can’t have 12 mil going to him cuz ill argue Kerrigan has been n will be more consistent overall so if u drop this on orackpo what u gonna do for Kerrigan when his contact is up gonna have 24 million eaten up by those players then rg3 will be up then n god knows what that’s gonna cost along with trent. But with all that said I want orackpo but I think this organization needs to start developing players so it won’t cost it hurt so much in future if we can’t or don’t decide to pay some of these players

        • Bryan - Jan 31, 2014 at 1:15 PM

          Rich will u and Tarik be doing a outside lineback fa analysis in a worse case scenario that orackpo isn’t back?

        • Rich Tandler - Jan 31, 2014 at 2:47 PM

          I’ll do that at some point.

  12. greed - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    All the beef on the ol was on the bench , move lictherstimer to center plug in j.leribus at left guard plug in gettis at rg and t.compton at rt– there was no depth on team cause shanny refused to develope young players even when season was lost which was early he refused to play younger players in prominent roles … i.e… robinson,rambo, the oline guys,minnifield

  13. murphsman - Feb 5, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    Hey Rich. In light of the revelation that Bailey would be open to transitioning to safety, what r u thoughts on Hall moving to safety? I’ve heard that mentioned on message boards before.

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