With Su’a Cravens applying for reinstatement off the reserve/left squad list, there’s one big question remaining: Where will he play in 2018?
While it’s hard to imagine him returning to Washington, strange things happen in the NFL. Most likely, the two sides will get together at the scouting combine to discuss what’s next.
Here are some thoughts and other things to know:
Cravens has three years left on his original deal. If the Redskins released or traded Cravens, it wouldn’t be a big cap hit. Cravens would count $1.7 million against the cap if released prior to June 1 (and $1.06 million if traded). Most likely he’d be traded before or during the draft so the Redskins could get an extra pick.
It’s hard to know what Cravens, a second-round pick in 2016, would fetch in return. On the plus side: A team trading for him would get a talented player with three years left on his rookie contract (in other words, a bargain). That’s worth something. If it was just about talent and years left, he could fetch a third-round pick (at best), according to one NFL talent evaluator.
On the negative side: Teams will have the same concerns that Washington does and wonder if he’d walk away (again). Cravens had to deal with a bad family situation -- that’s more than just a little adversity -- as well as some health concerns. But teams will point to his history of having gone missing for a short period while in college as well as failing to show up one day during his rookie season when he was hurt. Other teams would use that to try and lower Cravens’ value.
How many players would accept Cravens back? That’s hard to know without talking to all of them or even a majority. I know based on conversations at season’s end some would have a hard time; that does not mean all or even a majority would. Certainly, based on talking to players after he initially left in September, there were some hard feelings. The move shocked them; they were counting on him. Thoughts can change over time, and Cravens said via Snapchat Monday night that, “My relationship with my teammates and friends on the team was never damaged. There was never beef. My homies checked in on me, we still kicked it, there was never an issue or divide lol it was just the media making a story when they didn’t have one.
Linebacker Mason Foster, speaking to the Team980 Tuesday, said of Cravens, “For you to work the whole year with us in OTAs, you got a starting spot and all of a sudden you just walk away from it, it’s tough. Without explaining it to guys on the team, I think some guys are going to feel a certain way, but me, I’m all for him to come back. He’s a great player. He’s made plays here, but I think it’s going to be a work in progress. You’re going to have to come back and show people what you’re made of and show people that your heart is really in it, or I don’t think anybody’s really going to welcome you back in with open arms like that.”
A source close to Cravens said before the season ended that Cravens getting treated for a concussion was a big help. Cravens had suffered a concussion during his rookie season. He returned from the concussion as a rookie, but it’s also possible the symptoms lingered and the problem needed to be dealt with in more depth. If it was mostly about the concussion and getting it treated, perhaps that changes the narrative for teammates. But, really, it's about whether his coaches and the organization can trust him again. They're the ones making the decision. It’s not about liking or disliking him; it’s about knowing he’ll be there when they need him.
Another factor for Washington: The play of Montae Nicholson. He played well at free safety -- when he was healthy. Unfortunately for the Redskins, he was only available for eight games, due to issues with his shoulder and eventually his own concussion. Cravens worked at both safety spots before hurting his knee in August but would be best near the line of scrimmage. That’s also where the Redskins feel D.J. Swearinger works best. Nicholson, meanwhile, is better deep.
A combination of Nicholson and Swearinger would work well. Swearinger is considered a student of the game and a leader in the secondary; Nicholson has the speed to cover a lot of ground and also play physical. His speed enabled slot corner Kendall Fuller, for example, to play more aggressively knowing Nicholson was behind him. Clearly, Cravens’ talent would be beneficial so putting aside the other stuff, the Redskins would have excellent safety depth if nothing else. Even if he didn’t start -- and perhaps he still would -- there would be packages Cravens would be part of and other ways he could help. He played with energy and displayed passion during games. But this situation goes beyond his talent.