Dashon Goldson was a target of GM Scot McCloughan for a while. Goldson did not fit Tampa Bay’s defensive scheme under coach Lovie Smith. So the Bucs wanted to get something for a guy with a hefty contract, and the Washington Redskins wanted to get someone who could play free safety.
Washington gave up a 2016 sixth-round pick, but it also received a seventh-rounder in return. So the impact when it comes to draft choices is minimal. Also, a source said the Redskins were not on the hook for all of Goldson’s $8 million salary. He had $4 million guaranteed, so that’s how much Tampa Bay absorbs. So the Redskins added a starting free safety for $4 million.
But the question is: What does he add? Goldson went to Tampa Bay off two Pro Bowl appearances in 2011 and ’12, leading to a contract valued up to $41.25 million. But the Bucs changed coaches after his first season and the feeling in Tampa was that he didn’t fit in the Cover 2. The Redskins most likely will use a lot of Cover 3 or single-high-safety looks. That’s one reason they liked corner Chris Culliver: He can play press coverage. So, too, can DeAngelo Hall and Bashaud Breeland. David Amerson is still learning but has the length to be effective in that role. The others, though, are more physical. It allows them to play a certain way with their safeties.
Goldson, though, is not considered strong in coverage; a knock on him in Tampa was his coverage busts. The Redskins had a lot of coverage busts last year, so that bears watching. They do think Jeron Johnson can play both strong and free; Goldson has been a free safety.
However, he does have a penchant for big hits. But, like Brandon Meriweather, it also got him in trouble. He was fined more than $150,000 for illegal hits in 2013. Like Meriweather, he has had to adjust how he hits. And a feeling in Tampa was that having to do so might have changed his aggressive style. But one executive who has watched Goldson said he still “has instincts, experience and playmaking ability.”
The Redskins could use all of the above. My colleague Pat Yasinskas said Goldson was considered good in the locker room and was a team captain in 2013. Just like I wrote about Johnson earlier Friday, the Redskins need more players like that. It was something the coaches privately acknowledged during the season. They wanted players with stronger leadership skills. (That said, it’s not as if some of the players who have left were not that way; on the contrary, players such as Barry Cofield , Ryan Clark and Brian Orakpo were those types of players).
But the key will be how much he has left as a player. He’s 30, so he’s hovering around his prime. One former defensive backs coach felt that Goldson’s best days were behind him. This person thought that Goldson was serviceable but that he could still play -- and, don’t worry, that he was better than, say, Madieu Williams was a few years back. Also, Goldson has had only one interception in the past two years combined (after having nine the previous two seasons in San Francisco). It’s a low-risk move, but what the Redskins really need at some point is a legitimate solution, one they can count on for more than a year. Short of that -- and the draft is thin on safeties -- these are the moves they must attempt and hope they work.
The best-days-behind-him description has been the case with most safeties the Redskins have added to try to fill a void created when Sean Taylor was murdered in 2007. From O.J. Atogwe to Tanard Jackson and Williams and even Clark. Goldson should have more left than those players -- and if he doesn’t it’ll be a one-year rental.
What this also means is that the Redskins can maintain their depth at corner. Had they not traded for Goldson, they would have considered moving a corner to safety. But one of the main things they wanted this offseason was to bulk up their corner depth -- it’s a tougher position to play than safety and, therefore, a more premium spot. The Redskins now have that depth; remember, they still have Tracy Porter (assuming he can stay healthy) to fill out their top five corners. Unless, that is, they find another option in the draft and release the oft-injured corner.
But the point of the depth, too, is that it affords versatility in coverage. They do have players who can slide to safety in nickel situations to help. That, at least, is the theory. Those theories often sound good in April. The Redskins need them to look good from September through the end of the season.
Nothing is guaranteed, but here's the one guarantee in this situation: If Washington had not found a free safety, it would have been in trouble. The Redskins found one, again. Now they just need for it to finally work.