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
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.
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: