As they look to upgrade Jim Haslettâ€™s defense this offseason, Washington Redskins officials are expected to devote a fair amount of resources to their secondary, where five of the six key contributors have expiring contracts.
Ranking high on the fix-it list is the safety position. Starter Brandon Meriweatherâ€™s contract voided last week, and now the Redskins must decide if they should make an attempt to re-sign him, or if they should look elsewhere.
The Redskins signed Meriweather in the spring of 2012, hoping that he could rebound from disappointing endings in New England and Chicago, respectively, and return to the two-time Pro Bowl form that he sported at the start of his career.
But knee injuries robbed Meriweather of all but one half of a game during his first season in Washington. He returned to the field in 2013 and recorded 69 tackles, two interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble and three pass deflections in 13 games. Meriweather missed three games with injury and one because of a suspension for illegal hits.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Meriweather had an impactful half of football in his game against Philadelphia in 2012, but in 2013, he didnâ€™t exactly stand out as a consistent difference-maker.
Meriweather did give the Redskins some versatility. He had the ability to play either safety position, and didnâ€™t get beat in pass coverage often. But after drawing the $42,000 fine for a hit against Green Bay and then the suspension for the hits against Chicago, he seemed to lose some of his aggression. He seemed to struggle to find a balance between playing with aggression while also avoiding putting himself and other players at risk.
Should the Redskins move on, or give Meriweather another chance? The argument could be made that he could display improvements a second year removed from his anterior cruciate ligament surgery, and that his familiarity with Haslett and Raheem Morris is a plus.
Meriweather played free safety for much of the season because of Bacarri Ramboâ€™s struggles, and Reed Doughty played strong safety. If the Redskins could add another free safety, then Meriweather could move back to his natural position, and possibly have more of an impact in the box.
But, can Washington do better? Thatâ€™s a key question. And it appears that the answer could be yes.
Strong safety Phillip Thomas will be coming off of a rookie season lost to a Lisfranc injury and boasts potential. But he remains unproven and will have some catching up to do, so he probably canâ€™t be counted on as of now.
But fortunately for the Redskins, a number of top-notch safeties are expected to hit the market this spring. Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd is considered by many to be the top safety in the game. Cleveland’s T.J Ward, San Francisco’s Donte Whitner and Miami’s Chris Clemons also are extremely talented, also should be available, and are all younger than Meriweather, who just turned 30.
Stevie Brown of the Giants and Chicago’s Major Wright are both coming off of injury-plagued seasons, but had strong 2012 campaigns.
It appears that the Redskins will have plenty of options at safety. And unlike years past, theyâ€™ll have the money to lure one of the top free agents at this position. That means upgrading this position, and perhaps finally gaining some stability seems like a realistic possibility.
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at email@example.com with the subject line â€śMailbag questionâ€ť for him to answer it inÂ The MailbagÂ on Tuesdays.
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