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The 5 O’Clock Club: Playing GM - assessing free agency targets (FS)

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

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The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Free agency and trading begins: March 14, 4pm ET

Every year, the Hogs Haven writers (not me) put in a ton of effort to analyze potential draft prospects and discuss how they can fit with the Redskins franchise. Last year, the site posted 117 draft profiles -- a veritable gold mine of information.

But long before the Draft (this year, 26-28 April in Arlington, Texas), the league has its very important free agency period. While the Redskins used to be known as “offseason champs” for the habit of throwing big dollars at big-name-but-aging-players in failed attempts to find a quick fix winning formula, more recently, the team has used free agency in a more appropriate way — filling roster holes ahead of the draft.

With that in mind, I thought it would be good to take a look at some potential free agents over the next few weeks. Obviously, not every potential free agent will be available when the 14th of March rolls around. A lot of them will be re-signed by their 2017 team before they ever hit the open market. Still, with the Redskins not in the playoffs, it’s time to look forward, and free agency is the next big thing in the NFL Calendar after the Scouting Combine (Indianapolis, 27 Feb - 5 Mar).

Today, let’s look at the Free Safety position.

Finding gold in the Fanposts

Chris in Manassas recently wrote a really solid Fanpost titled 10 Potential (and realistic) Free Agents that discussed... well... 10 potential free agents that the Redskins could target.

I liked his list.

Free Safety

Chris in Manassas is recommending Tre Boston as a free agent target for the Redskins.

The Redskins do not have a true free safety. DJ Swearinger should be playing strong safety in the Kam Chancellor/Deonne Buchanon mode where he get get big hits in the run game and cause chaos. Boston is a true free safety who was a ball hawk with the Chargers this year, snagging 5 INTs and recording 54 tackles. We were woeful in the turnover department this season. Also, Boston is just 25 years old so he’s got room to grow. Torrian Gray is a rising coaching star and did great in rebuilding Breeland, growing Fuller and letting Swearinger loose. Boston could be a great addition.

Los Angeles Chargers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images

I saw a lot of Tre Boston in recent weeks, as he was getting some in-studio broadcasting experience on He seems intelligent and charismatic on TV; I can imagine him being a good teammate.

Film Study

If you’re the type who likes to see a bit of film on a player, here’s a link to a film study on Tre Boston that appeared last off-season on Bolt From The Blue — the Chargers SB Nation fan site.

Here’s the bottom-line summary that Garrett Sisti, the Chargers writer, put at the bottom of the article:

Tre Boston is coming off his best year as a pro and only happens to be 24 years old. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has got a value signing after the draft before with guys like CB Brandon Flowers, OT Joe Barksdale and C Matt Slauson but what’s different this time around is that Boston could provide a long(er) term fix at safety. Boston was cut because the Panthers went in a different direction but he has 16 games of starting experience and his progression as a pro is trending upward. Carolina’s corners were not good last year and playing with Chargers cornerbacks like Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward should only set Boston up for a successful 2017 season if not for his best year yet. Tre Boston is an above average free safety with consistency issues but the bottom line is the Chargers upgraded their secondary and the team got better in an area they needed it the most.

It turned out that the film study was right — Tre Boston went on to have his best year as an NFL player in 2017. With the right team, he could go on to have several more years of solid performance as a starting free safety.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Carolina Panthers Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images


Tre Boston played his first three years with the Carolina Panthers before being cut from the team after the 2016 season. He signed with the Chargers in May last year, and was a bargain-basement signing, inking a one-year deal for $896,000.

He had been inconsistent at Carolina and was only expected to play as part of a 3-man rotation for the Bolts. His actual performance was a pleasant surprise for Bolts fans.

  • He ended the 2017 season ranked 24th among all defensive backs in tackles (11th ranked free safety).
  • He was tied for 5th among defensive backs, and 3rd among free safeties in interceptions.

Boston was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. Things didn’t go as well as either the team or the player would have hoped. Let’s look at some thoughts from posted in May last year.

After three up-and-down seasons, the Panthers decided it was best to part ways with safety Tre Boston.

Boston, drafted out of North Carolina in the fourth round in 2014, struggled with consistency during his tenure with the Panthers and never managed to secure a full-time role on the defense.

Boston’s rookie season got off to a tough start when he missed five games with a groin injury. He eventually got a chance to contribute, starting five games and recording his first career interception and returning it for an 84-yard touchdown in a division-clinching win over Atlanta in the season finale.

Boston entered the 2015 season as the leading candidate at free safety, but veteran addition Kurt Coleman beat him out for the starting spot in training camp.

In 2016, with Roman Harper off to New Orleans, Boston entered the season as the starter alongside Coleman. But the coaching staff later decided to get veteran Michael Griffin more involved.

Boston started 10 of the 15 games he played last season. He finished with 50 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defensed and two sacks.

The Panthers decided to move on from Boston to give him ample time to latch on with another team and because they want to take a hard look at other options on the roster.

By contrast, Boston has had a pretty good year with the Chargers, basically setting career highs in pretty much every statistical category.

Los Angeles Chargers v New York Giants Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Here’s what one writer on the Chargers website, Bolts From The Blue, had to say about Boston when he signed with the Chargers as a free agent last off-season.

While there is reason to be excited about Boston’s arrival, I don’t think the team views him as a one-stop-shop for all that ails them at the position – and they shouldn’t.

Boston is the instinctive, rangy, gambling free safety. He recognizes route combinations, has a knack for undercutting routes between the hash marks, and flashes above average ball skills. That said, he takes awful angles in the run game, is slow to diagnose running plays, and generally looks to avoid blockers and ball carriers as a run defender. Doesn’t sound like someone you want on the field in the base defense, does it? That’s why I suspect he will mainly play in sub packages (second and long, third and long), where he can focus on doing what he does best without putting him in a position to hurt the team with the things he doesn’t do well.

It’s probably fair to say that Boston delivered more than most Chargers fans expected when he signed with them last year.

In 2018, he is likely to find an increased demand for his services.

Statistically comparable player

When I went looking for a statistical comparison for Tre Boston for 2017, I was surprised to find that the best comparison I could find was with the Redskins own D.J. Swearinger.


  • Boston 79
  • Swearinger 79

Passes Defended (incl INTs)

  • Boston 13
  • Swearinger 14


  • Boston 5
  • Swearinger 4

In fact, the similarities between Swearinger and Boston go beyond 2017 statistics. Swearinger was inconsistent at the start of his career, bouncing from the Texans, to the Buccaneers, to the Cardinals. It wasn’t until the 2016 season with Arizona that Swearinger started to make people believe in his on-field play and his maturity.

As a Redskin last year, D.J. put up his best-ever numbers, posting highs in tackles, passes defended, and INTs, was voted defensive captain, and was a vocal leader on the team.

It may be that Tre Boston, similar to Swearinger, is set to finally deliver consistent quality performance year after year.


Swearinger is playing on a 3-year, $13.5m contract ($4.5m per year APY) that he signed last off-season. As a 2nd round draft pick, Swearinger had a better pedigree, but was also carrying a lot of baggage when the Redskins signed him last season.

I imagine that the Chargers would like to hold onto Tre Boston, so the Redskins may not even get the chance to talk to him, but he’d likely enhance the Redskin defense if the front office could get him.

I’m not sure whether he’d command more or less money than D.J. Swearinger did last season, but I’m guessing that Tre Boston would be perceived as having roughly the same value. If that’s the case, then his market value would be roughly the same as Swearinger, though the fact that it’s a bit tougher to find true Free Safeties than Strong Safeties may give Boston some leverage.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Grade Tre Boston as a free agent target to play free safety for the Redskins in 2018.

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports