Taking a look at the Washington Redskins' needs entering free agency and the draft.
Rate the need: Medium-high.
Why it’s a need: You can take an optimistic spin and say the Redskins aren’t in terrible shape with two starting cornerbacks (Bashaud Breeland and Chris Culliver) and two starting safeties (DeAngelo Hall and Dashon Goldson). But Culliver is coming off a torn right ACL and might not be ready for training camp. He had knee issues before the injury -- and he tore his left ACL in 2013. He turns 28 in August, but it’s fair to wonder how effective he will be this season and in the future. And who is the third cornerback? I don’t know that Quinton Dunbar showed enough to be elevated to that role so soon. Will Blackmon is a free agent. Even if Culliver is healthy and ready, they still need more depth. At safety, the Redskins like what Hall showed in his half season at safety -- switching positions without benefit of an offseason. And they like Goldson. But Hall is 32 -- we don’t know how he will hold up over the course of a season at a more physical position. Goldson counts $8 million against the cap; if a new deal can’t be worked out (read: pay cut), then the Redskins will need someone there, too. The Redskins do have Duke Ihenacho and Kyshoen Jarrett returning from injuries, but they absolutely need more players to develop at both spots.
Culliver’s situation: Just to address this one because it’s come up a few times, but Culliver will return. There was a clause in his contract that the Redskins could void the guaranteed money in 2016 ($8 million) if Culliver was suspended -- and he was for one game last season. But I’ve been told multiple times that the Redskins plan on bringing him back and will not remove the guaranteed portion of the contract.
Free agent possibilities: Blackmon would like to return and remains an option, though the Redskins would like to get younger backups they can develop. Among the top free agent cornerbacks: Carolina’s Josh Norman (Panthers can’t let him get away); Kansas City’s Sean Smith (Chiefs might not re-sign the 28-year-old, but he will cost about $10 million per year); the New York Giants' Prince Amukamara and Los Angeles' Janoris Jenkins (obtained in one of the picks for Robert Griffin III) and Trumaine Johnson. San Diego’s Patrick Robinson can play inside or outside and will be 29 (and relatively inexpensive). At safety, Kansas City’s Eric Berry (can’t imagine the Chiefs let him get away), San Diego’s Eric Weddle (he has familiarity with Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry, an ex-Chargers linebackers coach, but he’s also 31) and Cincinnati’s George Iloka and Cleveland’s Tashaun Gipson are among the best.
Draft possibilities: At cornerback, Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander and Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller are possibilities with the No. 21 pick in the first round, though I don’t think there will be consensus on where both players will be projected (not sure what the Redskins think of either player at this point). Cornerback James Bradberry from Samford will be an interesting prospect in the middle rounds; he’s long (6-foot-3) and can run, but his best spot might be safety. The safety class likely won’t yield anyone for the Redskins at no. 21 -- this group has more talent in the second and third rounds. Florida’s Keanu Neal, Ohio State’s Vonn Bell, Boise State’s Darian Thompson and Duke’s Jeremy Cash are among those who slot in those areas. One of them might sneak into the first round.
In-house options: Dunbar showed that his length and speed can be assets, but he’s still relatively raw at cornerback and would be best served with another year as a fourth or fifth option. But he’s worth developing and he will be intriguing to watch in the spring and summer. At safety, I’m a big Jarrett fan, but worry about his size and therefore durability if he were a starter. But he adds good depth, toughness and special teams play. Ihenacho is a restricted free agent, but if he returns it’s hard to count on a guy who has missed almost all of the past two seasons. Maybe he will do well, but there is no way you should count on it happening. The Redskins need more players that they can develop.