It's not often that an NFL team can sign a starting-caliber player in June. But Stuart Schweigert is someone who could eventually play a significant role on the Redskins' defense in 2008.
The Redskins signed Schweigert, a 6-2, 210-pound free safety, on June 2. A look at the Redskins' secondary suggests that he could be more than just a depth signing.
Schweigert joins a defensive backfield that includes former first-round draft pick LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty and Vernon Fox.
Landry, a burgeoning talent, is expected to draw one of the starting spots in the defensive backfield. He played both strong and free safety last year. Doughty and Fox have played mostly strong safety.
The Redskins also have some youth at safety with first-year players Patrick Ghee and Justin Hamilton joining rookie draft picks Kareem Moore and Chris Horton.
(Fox and Moore have both had arthroscopic knee surgeries this offseason. They are not expected to practice until training camp.)
If defensive coordinator Greg Blache decides to play Landry at strong safety, then the door could open for Schweigert to earn the starting job at free safety.
Blache had interest in Schweigert prior to the 2004 NFL Draft, but Oakland selected him in the third round (67th overall).
With the Raiders, Schweigert played in 63 games, with 42 starts, and logged 315 tackles, four interceptions and 18 passes defended in four seasons.
"[Schweigert] has got to come out and compete," Blache said. "We don't give anybody anything here. If you get something yesterday, you have to come back out here and earn it today. He's going to come in and compete against those guys, and we'll give him a chance."
Added Blache: "He's a pure free safety...I'm not going to make any predictions at this time, but he is a guy with starting experience in this league. He has a chance to compete and add to our depth."
Landry, at 6-0 and 213 pounds, established himself as a hard-hitting safety, leveling punishing hits in the secondary. He finished with 97 tackles, third-best on the team, and 1.5 sacks.
Landry proved himself in coverage in the Redskins' playoff game at Seattle, pulling in two fourth quarter interceptions.
Landry is open to playing deep as a free safety or closer to the front lines as a strong safety.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "Whatever coach wants me to do, that's what I'm here for."
For his part, Schweigert sees an opportunity to compete for a starting job on the Redskins. He said it was one reason why he decided to sign with Washington after the Raiders released him on May 21.
"I didn't want to be a backup," he said. "I wanted to have a chance to go somewhere and play."
He added: "I think everyone's intention when they come onto a team is that they want to be the starter. That's just how the NFL is. There are great players here, so it's going to take a lot of work. If it's on special teams at first and I work my way up, then that's what I'll do."
For now, Schweigert said his greater priority is to fit in on the Redskins and be part of a winning franchise.
In his four years with the struggling Oakland Raiders, Schweigert's won-loss record is 15-49. His teams have never won a game in the month of December.
"I wanted to get to an organization that has a chance to win and this team definitely does," Schweigert said. "You only have so many years in this league and you definitely want to get on a team that has an opportunity to have something to play for in December.
"It feels like a thousand-pound bear has been lifted off my chest. Now it's time for me to go and just have a fresh start in a new part of the country."