Last week, I looked at several unrestricted free agent wide receivers the Redskins could target in the offseason. Another position the Redskins will be looking to upgrade at is cornerback. DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson (the starters from 2013) are free agents along with E.J. Biggers, who also received significant playing time and sometimes started at free safety. Of the three names I just mentioned, the player who may have the best shot to return is Hall.
The only other holdovers from last season who are currently under contract are David Amerson, the team's second round pick in the 2013 draft who played better as the season went on, and Richard Crawford, who provided a spark as a punt returner and showed promise on defense in 2012, but missed all of last season due to a torn ACL. Chase Minnifield split time last year between the active roster and the practice squad. Coaches seem to like him but he could rarely get on the field in 2013, so it unclear if he will have a spot on the team going forward.
That said, there are several unrestricted free agent cornerbacks who could come in and have an immediate impact on Jim Haslett's defense. Here are some of the best names available:
1. Alterraun Verner, 5-10, 187 lbs, 5th year, Titans
- 2013 stats: 16 games, 57 tackles, 5 INT's, 23 passes defended
- Career Avg: 68 tackles, 3 INT's, 13 passes defended
- Notes: Verner is viewed by many as the head of the free agent class this year and several teams are expected to pursue the playmaking defender. He plays with speed and toughness, can match up against the best receivers in the league and, at age 25, is still getting better. Last season, he tied for the lead in interceptions in the AFC, was named second team All-Pro and also was selected to play in the Pro Bowl.
2. Aqib Talib, 6-1, 205 lbs, 8th Year, Patriots
- 2013 stats: 13 games, 41 tackles, 4 INT's, 13 passes defended
- Career Avg: 34 tackles, 3 INT's, 10 passes defended
- Notes: The Redskins made an attempt to sign Talib last offseason and some reports surfaced that they had landed the talented veteran. Unfortunately for Washington, he signed with New England instead and then went on to have one of his best seasons (including being named All-Pro and being selected for the Pro Bowl). He may end up re-signing with the Patriots, but the Redskins' coaches that wanted him last year (Haslett and Raheem Morris) are still with the team and they will have money to spend this year. Talib has a relationship with Morris from their days together in Tampa Bay when Morris was his head coach, and Bruce Allen was the general manager of the Buccaneers when they drafted him before the 2008 season. Talib left this year's AFC title game after taking a hit to the knee, but tests performed after revealed no damage.
3. Sam Shields, 5-11, 184 lbs, 5th Year, Packers
- 2013 stats: 14 games, 61 tackles, 4 INT's, 17 passes defended
- Career Avg: 39 tackles, 3 INT's, 11 passes defended
- Notes: Shields is expected to be a hot commodity when free agency opens as well, and reports out of Green Bay indicate that he will be seeking a max deal. He is another cornerback who is young, has all the tools, and is only expected to get better. He missed some time due to a hamstring injury last season and then suffered a bone bruise in his knee in the NFC championship game. He is expected to be fully recovered by the start of training camp, however.
4. Vontae Davis, 5-11, 204 lbs, 6th Year, Colts
- 2013 Stats: 16 games, 46 tackles, 1 INT, 12 passes defended
- Career Avg: 45 tackles, 2 INT's, 10 passes defended
- Notes: The Colts traded a second round pick to the Dolphins before last season in exchange for Davis, and he rewarded them with tremendous play. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the second best cornerback available in free agency. Reports are that the Colts will make a big push to keep him.
5. Brent Grimes, 5-10, 190 lbs, 8th Year, Dolphins
- 2013 Stats: 16 games, 60 tackles, 4 INT's, 16 passes defended
- Career Avg: 42 tackles, 2 INT's, 10 passes defended
- Notes: Grimes is the number one ranked free agent corner by our friends at Pro Football Focus. He is also one of the oldest men on this list but had a great season last year and was named to the Pro Bowl following two injury filled seasons in Atlanta in 2011 and 2012. The Dolphins may put the Franchise tag on him if the two sides are unable to reach an agreement before free agency begins.
6. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 6-2, 193 lbs, 7th Year, Broncos
- 2012 stats: 15 games, 31 tackles, 3 INT's, 15 passes defended
- Career Avg: 40 tackles, 3 INT's, 17 passes defended
- Notes: After signing a one year deal to play with Denver in 2013, Rodgers-Cromartie had a solid season, including an interception against Kirk Cousins and the Redskins that he returned for a touchdown in Week 8. This week, while speaking to the media, he stated that he may retire if the Broncos win the Super Bowl. If he does so, he will be walking away from some lucrative contract offers.
7. Captain Munnerlyn, 5-8, 195 lbs, 6th Year, Panthers
- 2013 Stats: 16 games, 73 tackles, 2 INT's, 12 passes defended
- Career Avg: 54 tackles, 1 INT, 8 passes defended
- Notes: Munnerlyn is somewhat of an "under-the-radar" free agent. This former seventh round pick of the Panthers worked his way up slowly into the starting lineup after a couple years in the league and then played a big role as part of the NFL's second ranked defense in 2013. He is not the tallest player on the field, but plays bigger than he is and had two interceptions for two touchdowns in 2012 and 2013. He also can return punts and did so in Carolina up until last year. Munnerlyn is a gritty, hard-working player who would most likely not require the big contract expected from the players listed above, and could be plugged in to help solidify the secondary right away.