Who they've added: Johnson. He's expected to start at strong safety after signing a two-year, $4 million contract with the Redskins on Monday. Though he's only started one game, the Redskins brought him here with the intention of having him in the lineup. He's an unknown in part because he played behind Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, both of whom are durable and terrific.
What jumps out: They have some good special teams players. That's not to be dismissive of their ability; rather, it should help a unit that has struggled the past two years. The better depth you have at safety and linebacker, the better your special teams should perform. Ihenacho started 14 games for Denver in 2013, but the Broncos made upgrading strong safety a priority and he was cut before last season.
What they still need: A free safety capable of starting. While the previous coaching staff felt Thomas could play both strong and free -- they always pointed to him playing the wide side of the field in college -- they also weren't sold on him as a starter. There's no reason for the new staff to be sold. The person who drafted Thomas, and his first defensive staff, are gone.
Who they're looking at: They tried but failed to land Antrel Rolle. They're still talking to Taylor Mays, a second-round pick by San Francisco in 2010 (after Scot McCloughan left). No visit has been scheduled, but there were talks about setting one up. Mays' career has not matched expectations -- 10 career starts -- and if he's signed, I don't know that he should be given the job. In Cincinnati, where he played the past four seasons, he started four games. But he was probably best used as a nickel linebacker and special teamer. I have not been told any other names at free safety as of now. Former Giants safety Stevie Brown played for Redskins secondary coach Perry Fewell in New York, but Brown is seeking options elsewhere, according to a source.
Would they move a corner to free safety: It's not easy to transition from corner to safety, though, there are definitely some who have done so, including New England's Devin McCourty. When I talk to former safeties or coaches, the word that comes up first when deciding if a player could do so is smarts. They have to be an intelligent player and DeAngelo Hall certainly qualifies in that area. But Hall's size would be a concern. McCloughan likes bigger safeties and, at 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, Hall would not qualify as one. A move to safety could lead to a shortened career. If Hall can still play corner, he's more valuable there; no guarantee just moving him there would make him a good safety. David Amerson commits too many mistakes at corner to then trust him deep middle with no help behind him. Bashaud Breeland offers a good combination of instincts and size and the previous staff always felt he could play safety if he failed at corner -- that's what they said when he was drafted. But we're not at the point, yet. However, if the Redskins sign another corner -- and can't find a free safety -- then it's worth wondering what are their plans.
What else could help: An improved pass rush, which is why it's necessary to keep looking at edge rushers. But, also, corners they can trust (newly-signed Chris Culliver, for example, seemed to do a good job executing assignments and playing to his help. That matters). Amerson was not trustworthy last season and that led to coverage breakdowns. With a better rush and front seven (against the run as well) and corners who play their assignments, the safeties will be placed in better spots. But, yes, they need a starter.