With free agency set to begin in March, Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda and Jake Kring-Schreifels preview the 2017 NFL free agent class position-by-position. Today's focus is on safeties.
The safety position for the Redskins remained a rotating door throughout the entirety of last season, which was mostly a product of season-ending injuries.
Both DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton Jr. were placed on Injured Reserve after the first quarter of the season, forcing Washington to sign veterans Donte Whitner Sr. and Josh Evans. That also required some mixing and matching with Duke Ihenacho, who stayed healthy for the first time in two years, and Will Blackmon, in his first year transitioning from cornerback.
Whitner papered over some of the cracks early on, but struggled in his coverage ability occasionally as the season wore on. Ihenacho led the group with 66 tackles, and played closer to his preference in the box, helping to stop the run.
Both of them will be free agents this offseason, however, leaving some inexperience in their wake if the team decides not to bring either of them back.
"When it comes time for free agency, or wherever I go, if I'm here, don't matter, I'll be ready," Ihenacho said. "That's my mindset. I don't really have an idea of what it's going to be like. I'm not somebody that's guaranteed money, I'm not somebody who's going to be a headliner. Regardless of what happens I'll be ready."
For now, Blackmon and Hall are the veterans of the group entering the final years of their contracts, but injury concerns remain. Second-year safety Deshazor Everett also acquitted himself nicely near the end of the season – he recorded his first career interception against the Eagles – and will look to challenge for a starting role this offseason.
And then there is the prospect of adding Su'a Cravens, who played inside linebacker as a rookie last year, but plans to move this offseason to safety, where he is most comfortable.
"I think I can be a great safety," Cravens said. "I proved I cover tight ends pretty well this year and I think I can play in the box and I can also cover the deep third. I don't know why people are confused if I can or can't. It's just motivation to show people what I can do."
In other words, there is a lot of uncertainty moving forward, and while the Redskins could address safety in this year's draft, there is a good opportunity to fill a hole in free agency.
Here is a list of the safeties currently scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at 4 p.m. ET March 1, via NFL.com:
- Tony Jefferson, Arizona Cardinals
- D.J. Swearinger, Arizona Cardinals
- Dashon Goldson, Atlanta Falcons
- Kemal Ishmael, Atlanta Falcons
- Matt Elam, Baltimore Ravens
- Anthony Levine, Baltimore Ravens
Check out these photos of free agent safety, Eric Berry.
Colt Anderson, Buffalo Bills * James Ihedigbo, Buffalo Bills * Robert Blanton, Buffalo Bills * Colin Jones, Carolina Panthers * Michael Griffin, Carolina Panthers * Chris Prosinski, ChicagoBears * Jordan Poyer, Cleveland Browns * Barry Church, Dallas Cowboys * J.J. Wilcox, Dallas Cowboys * Rafael Bush, Detroit Lions * Micah Hyde, Green Bay Packers * Quintin Demps, Houston Texans * Don Jones, Houston Texans * Mike Adams, Indianapolis Colts * Duke Williams, Indianapolis Colts * Johnathan Cyprien, Jacksonville Jaguars * Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs * T.J. McDonald, Los Angeles Rams * Michael Thomas, Miami Dolphins * Duron Harmon, New England Patriots * Roman Harper, New Orleans Saints * Jamarca Sanford, New Orleans Saints * Shiloh Keo, New Orleans Saints * Nate Allen, Oakland Raiders * Brynden Trawick, Oakland Raiders * Shamarko Thomas, Pittsburgh Steelers * Jahleel Addae, Los Angeles Chargers * Jeron Johnson, Seattle Seahawks * Kelcie McCray, Seattle Seahawks * Chris Conte, Tampa Bay Buccaneers * Bradley McDougald, Tampa Bay Buccaneers * Daimion Stafford, Tennessee Titans * Rashad Johnson, Tennessee Titans * DonteWhitner, Washington Redskins * Duke Ihenacho, Washington Redskins
The biggest name on this list, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, also remains a question mark, and not because of his play. Kansas City has attempted to negotiate contract talks with their star defensive back but Berry has reportedly threatened to sit out if the team applies the franchise tag.
Last year, Berry played in all 16 games, recording 77 tackles with four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and a forced fumble. His durability – he hasn't missed a game in the last two years – would be very appealing.
Check out these photos of free agent safety, Micah Hyde.
Other strong candidates include Johnathan Cyprien, a second-round pick by the Jaguars in 2013, who put together his best season to date.
In 16 games, he recorded 127 tackles, forced and recovered a fumble and had four passes defensed, becoming a big run stopper as he played closer to the line of scrimmage.
Tony Jefferson is another young safety with plenty of upside and is expected to attract a hefty contract. He broke out with 96 tackles this past season with the Cardinals along with two sacks, two forced fumbles and five passes defensed.
One of the more intriguing players the Redskins could attempt to lure is Packers safety Micah Hyde, who has played the majority of his career in Green Bay as a hybrid player in the secondary.
He amassed 58 tackles, including a sack, three interceptions and nine passes defensed and is still entering the prime of his career at age 26.
2017 Free Agency Outlooks: