No one knew whether Su’a Cravens would play for the Washington Redskins again after he abruptly walked away shortly before the 2017 season. The team answered that question Wednesday when it traded the 22-year-old safety to the Denver Broncos, ending an odd two-year relationship that never saw the former second-round pick fulfill a massive amount of potential.
Washington will send Cravens to Denver in a swap of the teams’ fourth- and fifth-round draft picks, with the Broncos sending the Redskins an additional fifth-rounder, The Washington Post confirmed. The Redskins would also get the Broncos’ sixth-round pick in 2020 if Cravens plays in one playoff game for Denver.
The Redskins will specifically receive picks No. 109, 142 and 163 in the upcoming draft, while the Broncos receive Cravens, as well as picks No. 113 and 149. In effect, the Redskins move up four spots in the fourth round, seven spots in the fifth round and add the 163rd pick and potentially the 2020 sixth-rounder.
The trade was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Cravens’s standing with the Redskins seemed to take wild swings in the past month. There were reports in late February that the Redskins and Broncos were discussing a trade, but Washington Coach Jay Gruden came out at the NFL combine and pointedly said, “We’re not trading him.”
Speculation endured during the combine that the Broncos were working on a deal for Cravens, but Denver wasn’t the only interested party. A few teams had contacted Washington about the former Southern California safety, who last played in a regular season game Dec. 11, 2016. But it wasn’t before noon Wednesday that the Redskins and Broncos came to an agreement on compensation.
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Cravens’s new agent, Peter Schaffer, stressed his client’s desire to continue playing football, adding that Cravens is “excited to be in orange and blue” and “appreciative” of the Broncos believing in him.
All seemed quiet on the trade front during the first two weeks of free agency before Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams told The Post on Sunday that, while Cravens remained on the team’s roster, no one was untouchable.
“The thing about this business, everybody is tradable if the price is right,” Williams said then. “I think that’s how we’ve got to look at it. We’re not giving anybody away who has talent.”
Cravens sat out the 2017 season after shockingly announcing his retirement roughly a week before the Redskins’ regular season began, citing personal and health-related factors. The Redskins countered by placing him on the reserve/left squad list, which effectively preserved the three years remaining on his rookie contract.
Cravens had the organization excited during his rookie year as he thrived in a safety/linebacker hybrid role, started three games and finished with 33 tackles, one sack, one interception and five passes defended. He brought a versatile, playmaking presence to the defensive backfield that the Redskins are still looking to add to the unit. A concussion forced Cravens to miss time during that 2016 season, but he was expected to move into the starting lineup permanently in 2017.
His former agent said in December that Cravens had been medically cleared to return to the team and had undergone “targeted treatment and rehabilitation” for “post-concussion syndrome.” The NFL reinstated him in February. While Cravens was ready to come back, the question lingered whether the team would be accepting of someone who seemed to abandon his teammates.
Gruden was understanding of the personal issues, but also acknowledged Cravens left the team in a lurch.
“He had personal matters he had to tend to last year and chose to tend to them,” Gruden said at the combine. “What can you say about that? A lot of people were disappointed in that because we spent a lot of time with him in OTAs and training camp. We had a purpose for him and a role for him in certain packages and wasted some time practicing those and repping those.
“But at the end of the day, it’s about the player and the individual and he’s got to have the right state of mind in order to play pro football. Hopefully he does now.”
Teammates weren’t sure how to react to a possible return. Multiple people familiar with the situation told The Post players were upset when Cravens left the team. DeAngelo Hall told 106.7 The Fan in February he didn’t know how the locker room would accept a return. Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger told the NFL Network that he wanted to hear an explanation from Cravens.
Safety was already a position of need for the organization, and it becomes even more so now. Though the team re-signed restricted free agent safety Deshazor Everett to a multiyear deal this month, Washington hasn’t brought in any free agent safeties to interview at Redskins Park this offseason and could look to the draft to address the hole.
Florida State’s Derwin James could be in the mix at No. 13 overall. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound safety has elite athleticism, doesn’t shy from contact and is strong in coverage. He has the ability to fill a similar hybrid role to Cravens, with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky able to use James all over the field.
James was first-team all-ACC as a junior after missing most of 2016 because of meniscus surgery. He had 91 tackles — 9.5 for a loss — 4.5 sacks, four passes defended, two fumbles forced and two fumble recoveries in 2015. He posted 84 tackles, 5.5 for loss, one sack, 11 passes defensed, two interceptions and one returned for a touchdown in 2017.
The Redskins, in the end, turned a page on Cravens without many other options. They didn’t have a ton of leverage on the trade market as teams knew his return to Washington would have been awkward, at best. While Washington adds a modest number of draft assets, the Broncos add to a pass defense that ranked fourth in the league in 2017, but featured a scoring defense that was No. 24 overall.
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