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Need to Know: Safety should be Redskins’ top priority in free agency

Jan 28, 2015, 5:03 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 28, 41 days before NFL free agency starts for the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from Twitter:

I don’t think that the Redskins necessarily have any big goals in free agency. Scot McCloughan has stated that the team will be built through the draft. That means that a good chunk of the available cap space will go towards signing players the Redskins have drafted, guys like Ryan Kerrigan, Keenan Robinson and Trent Williams who will become free agents after the season.

But McCloughan also said that there will have to be some free agent activity at Redskins Park since they can’t rely on the draft to fill all of the existing holes. They will get two, at most three immediate starters out of the draft so they are going to have to do something.

So where do they look first in free agency? I think they have to go for a free safety. With both Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather free agents and unlikely to return, they need two new starting safeties. While starting the last four games of the season in place of the injured Meriweather, Phillip Thomas showed that he might be the solution at strong safety for the short term and perhaps permanently. But it’s hard to look at Akeem Davis or Trenton Robinson and say that he can hold down the fort at free safety spot for 16 games. They can’t rely on finding an immediate starter in the draft.

But don’t start fitting the safeties like Devin McCourty or Antrel Rolle for burgundy and gold uniforms. They are likely to stay away from a player who will command a multi-year deal with a large chunk of guaranteed money. They will just want someone who can hold down the fort until a draft pick is ready to start. Perhaps someone like Kurt Coleman, who likely would come on board with a one- or two-year deal with minimal money up front, would be more like it.

I know that a lot of you reading this are screaming, “Offensive line, you idiot! Offensive line!” That is certainly a possibility although, again, the Redskins will be shopping in the short-term bargain basement area if they do decide to patch up the line with a free agent or two.

A lot of what goes on along the line will depend on McCloughan’s evaluation of 2014 draft picks Morgan Moses and Spencer Long, along with the doctors’ evaluation of Moses’ timetable for recovery from his Lisfranc injury. If he thinks they can be the starting right side of the line sooner rather than later, they could bypass free agency on the line altogether.


—It’s been 31 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 228 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 22; NFL free agency starts 41; 2015 NFL Draft 92

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. skinsgame - Jan 28, 2015 at 8:38 AM

    If the goal is to avoid free agents that will require long term, expensive deals and to seek out transitional type players to buy time for the club, explain again why Ryan Clark and Meriweather are excluded. Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather both of those players were not here next year. But players that are any good are going to have demands that WILL be met and the Redskins will be settling for Clark and Meriweather types anyway. That is, if the team addresses the safety spot in free agency at all.

    • celticsforever - Jan 28, 2015 at 8:45 AM

      Good points… let me add a thought or two: age and injuries and suspensions. Age is catching up with these guys, hence injuries. It’s bad enough that they just don’t have much left to give, they cannot stay on the field. And Meriweather is one hit away from a 4-gamer. At least get someone fleet-of-foot who is coachable for FS. SS is not as dire, maybe start Thomas & Meriweather back him up?

    • bangkokben - Jan 28, 2015 at 9:07 AM

      “…explain again why Ryan Clark and Meriweather are excluded.”

      The same reason Madieu Williams is no longer on the team – the threshold of suckatude has been exceeded and even same types are upgrades.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 28, 2015 at 10:27 AM

      I’ll repeat what I’ve been saying for a few months—If Clark and/or Meriweather are on the team in 2015 it will represent a massive organizational failure. They just need to move on.

      > > >

      • skinsgame - Jan 28, 2015 at 5:52 PM

        For the sake of discussion, if they aren’t upgrading, I’d disagree. At least with these 2 you know what you have. Move on to the same things? I guess swapping Meriweather for his equal makes sense because there are pending suspensions. But these 2 aren’t going to break the bank and if it’s just a transition, I just don’t see the point.

    • ET - Jan 28, 2015 at 12:11 PM

      Clark is a good guy, and I suspect he’d be a great coach, but he’s no longer a good player. Meriweather just needs to be gone.

      I’m hoping that Davis, Inenacho and Thomas can step up, but it seems like they need to acquire at least one competent safety in free agency.

    • imskh009 - Jan 28, 2015 at 3:41 PM

      I agree w/ you skinsgame. I think Tandler is taking Scott way to literal and underestimating “Big Dan’s” influence. The GM will sign some people, after they release Bowen, Chester, Cofield, et al. they will have $30 million or so to spend. You can sign people that are 26-27 years old who fit the mold of “Redskins” and have 4-5 good years of football left. They can grow w/ your draft picks and hopefully in 2 years we can make a playoff run. There is no way, we are sitting by the wayside again and winning 2-4 games while we wait on draft picks to develop. I mean, if your lucky you get 4-5 people on your team out of a 7 pick draft, it would take 3-5 years to put together a viable team…no way Dan and the fans are going for that!!

      According to the Free Agent listing – there are some solid players, who will demand some cash, that are in the age group you want and can grow w/ your team.

  2. bangkokben - Jan 28, 2015 at 9:03 AM

    “If he (McCloughan) thinks they can be the starting right side of the line sooner rather than later, they could bypass free agency on the line altogether.”

    This statement is spot on – it all depends on what Scot thinks. And the same time it seems to be overly optimistic – on par with: If RGIII regains his 2012 form. It would be almost entirely based on his view of the practice tapes as Long got less than a dozen snaps. I also can’t imagine a big man like Moses recovering quicker than Philip Thomas with less time. Of course, Scotty could evaluate the two positions separately: i.e. Long is ready to compete; need a stop gap free agent for Right Tackle. On the other hand, he could conclude that the two 3rd rounders are rubbish and need to be replaced sooner rather than later.

    • shermanp79 - Jan 28, 2015 at 1:28 PM

      The one thing I disagree with Gruden on, he failed to get young guys in there when the ones in front were struggling. I would of played Long the final 3 games. I would of put Grant in for Roberts. So many young WR played big roles this year and we got 6 catches from Grant. If we recall, Gruden praised him from the start. His route running was that of a vet. If this team is going to progress, the young guys have to get on the field. They will be changing the blocking scheme so hopefully it helps Long and Moses. If they Draft a C this year, maybe pick up a short term RT in FA, the line will look better. If they feel Moses is too big a project, then go get a young RT FA. The OL is one area I think you can use FA to help build your team. Had we Drafted correctly 4 years ago, we would be signing a guy to remain with the team. Since our Drafts sucked, we need to pick other teams. It’s being smart with who you sign. Having Callahan here will make them better too.

  3. deepball1 - Jan 28, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    I am going to disagree with Rich on the free safety issue….and perhaps I may be in disagreement with the Redskins. They cannot fill every position in one year and maybe not in 2 so why exclude Free Agents as a source for a solid player.

    Devin McCourty is not Sean Taylor but he is way above Ryan Clark’s ability and FREE safety is probably the hardest position on defense to judge talent wise in the draft because that guy must cover, read NFL Offenses, and be able to tackle as well. He may have to play near the los or he may be asked to drop deep and play single high coverage.

    So go get somebody who is still young, is proven, and at the same time somebody who comes from a WINNING organization. A 4-5 year deal locks up a position of need and allows the Skins to focus on ALL those other weakpoints….of which there are many. McCourty should be the top priority if we only dig into free agency once.

    • deepball1 - Jan 28, 2015 at 10:16 AM

      p.s. I forgot to mention that Perry Fewell loves safeties, the more the better, so the Skins will be drafting a safety in all likelyhood. I just don’t see a secondary full of rookies.

  4. murphsman - Jan 28, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    I agree with this post completely Rich.

  5. mitch2538 - Jan 28, 2015 at 12:29 PM

    The safety position should be a major priority, as it relates to free agency. FS Rahim Moore (Denver Broncos) would be a nice pick up… along with SS’s Da Norris Searcy (Buffalo Bills), and Ron Parker (Kansas City Chiefs).

  6. colmac69 - Jan 28, 2015 at 12:42 PM

    Safety is a position where they need to upgrade at least one position if not two,,,,,, however unless they get a pass rush on a consistent basis then they could have ed reed and ronnie lott as your two safeties and opposing qbs would still have a field day,,,,,,,,, the two best 3-4 defenses imo in last 5-8 yrs have been pitt and balt,,,, they had ed reed and troy polumalu as starting safeties (both great players) but can you remember who the other pair that played beside them respectively? As whole both sides secondaries at corner and other safety position were decent not great,,,,, what made them look great was the front seven of both teams who were really strong at nose tackle and olb and could rush passer consistently,,,,

    Until we can get right pieces in place it wont matter who we got at safety,,,, but for sure we need to upgrade on the play of clark and merriweather (although he was gd at line scrimmage),,,,,,

  7. majskinsfan - Jan 28, 2015 at 1:05 PM

    I understand your thoughts, but I have to disagree, not because your points aren’t valid, but because of how I perceive your points. I think the draft is where they will find a safety and RT will be a FA because they did draft Moses and he has potential, I think they will bring in a stop gap until Moses is healthy. I really wish we had Rambo still on the roster to see what Fewell and Barry could do with him. I think the draft will also produce a new Center; Grasu from Oregon is my preference. If they are able to find a draft partner and get another 2nd round pick, I could see Shelton in the 1st, Grasu and a Safety in the second. That would solidify the center of both lines and give us a new safety in the center of the DBs.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 28, 2015 at 6:41 PM

      A draft board is not a shopping list. If you go into the draft determined to get a starting safety, you’ll likely end up with a bad safety, poor value for the draft pick, and watching a player you could have had go on to play well for another team.

      From what he says and what he has done in the past, the Redskins new GM doesn’t think of the draft as a shopping list. I think eventually Redskins fans will be happy about this but it’s going to take a lot of getting used to.

      • alextwrs - Jan 29, 2015 at 12:06 PM

        So were Ribs and long who were definitely shopping list needs over drafted based on the shopping list theory?

      • alextwrs - Jan 29, 2015 at 12:07 PM

        How about Thomas and Rambo being drafted the same year?

  8. Lex - Jan 28, 2015 at 4:33 PM

    Great points Rich, but with Safties like Danoris Searcy and Raheem Moore avail why would you suggest Kurt Coleman? Searcy hasnt given up a TD all year we need guys like that!

  9. kenlinkins - Jan 28, 2015 at 4:33 PM

    Rich: Do you think that the new DC and DB coach will redefine the Safety position for 2015? Haslett seemed to like having both the SS and FS being interchangeable in order to confuse QB’s and disguise the defense. IMO this put the Redskins at a disadvantage as it seemed to force our safeties to learn two positions. This caused missed assignments and slow reactions. IMO the new DC could gain ground just by having a true FS and SS. I would also like to see the Redskins try both Amerson or Bridget (or D. Hall when he is ready to play again) at Safety in Mini Camp as they both seem to have the size required. With the lack of Safeties in both the Draft and as Free Agents, if the Redskins do draft a CB (or two) in the draft, maybe the short term answer to Safety is already on the Redskins roster.

  10. Salih jones - Jan 29, 2015 at 2:16 PM

    Why not draft Landon Collins & pick one more safety up in free agency like Parker outta Kc? I’m sorry but Collins is a stud with star potential plus we could probably even trade back to get him & pick up more picks
    What do y’all think? Archives

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