With today's focus at the NFL Scouting Combine being on defensive backs, many Redskins fans will be interested in how these players perform. Internet scouting sites have frequently listed safety as a top need for this team, and that logic is hard to argue. The Redskins have had a revolving door at the position ever since the tragic passing of the great Sean Taylor. The Skins have attempted to fill the void through the draft with such players as LaRon Landry, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, but those experiments failed. They attempted to apply a band-aid to the position through free agency by bringing in guys like Adam Archuleta, O.J. Atogwe, Madieu Williams, Brandon Meriweather, and Ryan Clark, but those turned out to be disappointments.
In an article written Feburary 19th of this year by Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler(You can read it here), the pair gave the Redskins safety position a grade of C, citing age of our potential starters(Hall and Goldson) and injury(Ihenacho), being the main reasons why. They suggested Goldson, who turns 32 in September, could be a potential cut due to his $8 million cap hit in 2016, despite leading the team in snaps played(995) and tackles(110). Hall, who started the season at corner, but was moved to safety, and played well, is also 32, so El-Bashir and Tandler have a good point.
I will take a different approach to the position.
I am a big believer in consistency in the NFL. A revolving door in football at any position(including coaches)is not good. The Redskins have been the model of inconsistency at pretty much everything over the last two decades - head coach, quarterback, center, safety, etc... For the last two years, I have been a proponent of moving DeAngelo Hall to safety. When he finally made the permanent move there last season, he did very well. Now, at 32, he's no spring chicken, but other corners-turned-safety have made the move later in their careers, and have fared well. Ronnie Lott(started playing safety at age 27 - played 9 years at S), Rod Woodson(start playing safety at age 34 - played 5 years at FS), Charles Woodson(started playing safety at age 36 - is entering his 5th season at S), Ronde Barber(played safety for one year at age 37), Aeneas Williams(started playing safety at age 34 - played S full-time for 2 years). Now aside from Lott, Hall made the transition to safety at a younger age than the others mentioned here.
Age aside, not just any player can make the move from corner to safety. Instincts, intelligence and knowing all the responsibilities of playing deep, are characteristics a safety must have. According to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, there are certain skills needed at safety that are a little different from corner - "You see more of the field. You get a better chance to read the quarterback on a lot of things, depending on how much man or zone coverage you are playing. Your matchups are different on inside receivers versus perimeter receivers." What Belichick describes here, are some of the strengths DeAngelo Hall brings to the table. He's been around the league a while, and he's seen pretty much everything an offense can throw at him. He's very instinctual, and does an excellent job of reading the quarterback and anticipating throws. Sometimes, he anticipates so well, that he's caught on double moves. Being back at safety, and being able to see the whole field, he will not be put on an island, and be as susceptible to these types of plays as he was at corner.
Overall for Hall AND the Redskins, this moves makes a lot of sense, and given the longevity other players have had once they have successfully made the transition, I feel Hall has another 4-5 good years left as a safety. He is under contract until 2017 at just over $5 million/per season(a modest amount for a quality veteran).
If Hall is slated at one safety spot, and is much more of a free safety, the Redskins have other options on the roster to pair opposite him. One option is the aforementioned Dashon Goldson. As I mentioned before, Goldson will turn 32 in September, but he's not over-the-hill for the position, and his play last year was well above average. The Redskins could look to re-structure his current deal to make it more cap friendly. If he's released, we have Kyshoen Jarrett(22), Jeron Johnson(27), and could bring back Duke Ihenacho(26 - he's a restricted free agent)if he's medically cleared.
It's certainly a possibility that the Redskins look to bring in a young safety in April's draft, but I feel we have enough options currently on the roster to not have to spend a high pick on a player who needs to see the field early. We should feel confident on the back end, that we can use our high picks towards more pressing needs, such as defensive line, corner, center and linebacker.