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Free Agency Preview: Defensive Backs


With free agency set to begin Tuesday at 4 p.m.,'s Brian Tinsman takes a look at the team's roster with an eye toward need. First up: defensive backs.

Since moving to the 3-4 defensive scheme in 2010, the Redskins have sought defenders that can be playmakers on the ball.

From 2010 incumbents LaRon Landry to free agent additions Oshiomogho Atogwe and Brandon Meriweather, the goal has been turnovers, but the results have been mixed.

In 2012, the Redskins ranked third in the NFL in interceptions (21), but tied for the second-most touchdowns yielded (31).

While the defense's successes and failures must be considered as a unit, the team's 31st-ranked pass defense in 2012 calls for upgrades and a possible overhaul heading into free agency.



Redskins' cornerbacks currently under contract for next season include: Josh Wilson, DeAngelo Hall, Richard Crawford and Jerome Murphy.

Redskins' safeties currently under contract for next season include: Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes, Tanard Jackson and Jordan Pugh.

Veterans Cedric Griffin, Madieu Williams and Tanard Jackson are scheduled to hit free agency at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and are uncertain to return.

Williams started all 16 games at free safety this season, providing the defense with a veteran presence as the last line of defense.

While he finished third on the team in tackles (113), with a sack, interception, forced fumble, touchdown and six passes defensed, his age (31) could cause the Redskins to look elsewhere.

Griffin appeared in nine games last season, starting two, but made an impact with 43 tackles and two forced fumbles.

He made an impact in games that he played, but also struggled with injury and a suspension that ended his regular season prematurely.

Griffin brought size and physicality to an undersized secondary, but his age (30) and injuries are worth consideration.

He has undeniable NFL talent, but his off-the-field decisions could scare away teams like the Redskins that emphasize character in the locker room.

Keep a close eye on the secondary this offseason.


Three NFL Safeties Eligible for Free Agency

As of March 11, 2013; names listed are in no particular order:

--Dashon Goldson, San Francisco 49ers: Considered by many to be the top available safety, Goldson brings a skillset ideally suited for the Redskins' defense. Goldson finished the 2012 season with a modest 69 tackles, but added 11 passes defensed, three interceptions and a forced fumble. At 6-2, 200 pounds and 28 years old, Goldson is a top player in his prime.

--Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens: Reed is coming off of a Super Bowl season in which he started all 16 games, defended 15 passes with four interceptions and a touchdown. Even at the age of 34, Reed is one of the best at his craft and would bring immediate leadership and intimidation qualities to the Redskins' defense..

--Kenny Phillips, New York Giants: The Redskins have used divisional play to scout opposing players in the past, bringing in Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen to shore up the line in the past. Phillips had a down year in 2012, playing only seven games, but the former first-rounder should still command interest in free agency. At 26 years old, Phillips (6-2, 217 pounds) is just entering his prime and could benefit from a change of scenery.

Three NFL Cornerbacks Eligible for Free Agency

As of March 11, 2013; names listed are in no particular order:

--Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Philadelphia Eagles: Despite playing in a porous Eagles' secondary, Rodgers-Cromartie performed well in 2012, collecting 51 tackles, 17 passes defensed and three interceptions. He brings desirable size to the position (6-2, 182), but has the speed and footwork to cover the game's best receivers. He is just entering his prime and should command a large deal somewhere.

--Aqib Talib, New England Patriots: When Talib was being shopped by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, the Redskins were a logical fit based on the Raheem Morris connection. That connection remains this offseason, as Talib could be reunited with his former head coach, a mentor that has patiently nurtured his maturity and development. Talib has not been a starter for two seasons, but showed that he can still produce in six games with the Patriots last season.

--Cary Williams, Baltimore Ravens: During his four seasons in Baltimore, Williams turned talent into consistency, starting all 38 games in the last two seasons, including six playoff games. Williams has good size (6-1, 180 pounds) and is young enough (28) to provide steady production over the course of a long-term deal. He could be a good fit in Washington, but should receive ample interest after intercepting two passes and defending six others in the 2012 playoffs.




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