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The 5 O’Clock Club: Playing GM - a look at 4 top free agent safeties (Updated with link to earlier article)

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

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.

We all know that teams will announce most of the re-signings of their 2017 players in the week between the end of the Combine and the start of the new year, so I want to finish up the “a look at free agents” series before the list of available players starts changing hourly. The Redskins have already announced the re-signing of two of their players, and this week saw a high profile player tagged -- Jarvis Landry of the Dolphins. My plan is to publish a look at free agents daily from today through Saturday the 3rd in an attempt to highlight as many free agents as possible ahead of the new league year, which starts at 4 p.m. on 14 March.

The Redskins and safeties

The Redskins have a good strong safety in DJ Swearinger, and while he describes himself as an “all-round” safety flexible to play in coverage, that is a bit self-serving in terms of salary cap and roster. Montae Nicholson looked pretty good in the 15 minutes or so that he played uninjured in his rookie season. Injuries to both shoulders (and perhaps more) took him off the field and sent up red flags (at least with fans) about his durability.

Redskin safety play had been abysmal for years. Last season it approached ‘average’, which was a huge step forward. The team has the opportunity to take another step forward by adding a talented safety in the draft or free agency.

Below, you will find a summary of four players who do not currently have 2018 contracts, who may be available to the Redskins from 14 March on. These four players are generally considered to be among the best free agent safeties in the NFL this year.

Tre Boston

The 5 o’clock club posted an in-depth look at Tre Boston on 11 Jan. To read that article, just click here.

Tre Boston may be the best safety option available in free agency for the Redskins.

Lamarcus Joyner, S

Houston Texans v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Team: Los Angeles Rams

Height: 5’8”

Weight: 190 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 27

Entry to NFL: 2nd round, 2014 draft (Rams)

Joyner blossomed under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, notching the first three interceptions of his career and proving to be one of the Rams’ best defensive players. His timing, in a contract year, couldn’t have been better.

News & updates

There have been numerous reports, driven by comments from Mike Garafolo, that the Rams may put the franchise tag on Joyner.

Career Stats

Contract

Spotrac estimates Lemarcus Joyner’s market value at an APY of $10.6m:

Stood out in his walk year and is pretty versatile in coverage. Those players in recent years have scored big contracts in free agency.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Joyner has three career interceptions — all of them in 2017, just in time for his free agent off season. He’s undoubtedly a good safety, and at 27 he’s the right age, but his contract is likely to be too rich for the Redskins, who have a young developing talent in Montae Nicholson to start opposite DJ Swearinger.

Eric Reid, S

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Team: San Francisco 49ers

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 213 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 26

Entry to NFL: 18th overall, 2013 Draft (49ers)

Reid will provide another test case for the ongoing impact of NFL player protests during the national anthem. Reid is one of the organizing partners of the initial movement. We all know what happened to his friend, colleague and former teammate Colin Kaepernick. Reid would be a prized target, but even he understands the potential limits on his market.

Career Stats

Contract

Spotrac estimates Eric Reid’s market value at an APY of $8.6m:

Versatile player that can do a lot on the field but has been a bit lost in the 49ers shuffle the last few years. Team could get a big bargain here if in the $8M range.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

It’s hard to imagine a player who would add more to the Redskins defense than Eric Reid. With 300 tackles and 10 INTs in five seasons, Reid is a leading safety in the league, but may see his market suppressed due to his social injustice protests. The Niners have enough cap room to comfortably hold onto Reid, but may want to move on from him as part of Shanahan and Lynch building a new roster in their combined image. This could be the perfect opportunity for the Redskins to take a dramatic leap forward defensively with the addition of a key player on a high, but still affordable, contract.

Morgan Burnett, S

Green Bay Packers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Team: Green Bay Packers

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 209 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 29

Entry to NFL: 3rd round, 2010 draft (Packers)

Smart and big (6-foot-1), Burnett is in some ways an ideal player to stabilize an inexperienced back end. The biggest drawback has been a history of minor injuries that take him off the field for short stretches. He’s missed at least one game in each of his past five seasons.

Career Stats

Contract

Spotrac estimates Morgan Burnett’s market value at an APY of $9.8m:

Over the Cap seems to think he’ll make a bit less:

Should gain interest as a second safety similar to the crop of players who all got contracts in the $7 million range last season

How would he fit with the Redskins?

More of a strong safety who can play in the box against the run than a free safety to cover the deep part of the field, Burnett probably doesn’t fit the Redskins needs particularly well, and at age 29 isn’t the best fit for a defense that needs a younger veteran to partner with DJ Swearninger and mentor Montae Nicholson.

Kenny Vaccaro, S

Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Team: New Orleans Saints

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 214 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 27

Entry to NFL: 15th overall, 2013 draft (NO Saints)

Creative coaches can put Vaccaro into all kinds of productive positions as his career transitions into a hybrid safety/linebacker role. The Saints’ salary-cap situation, as well as Brees’ pending contract expiration, makes it reasonably possible that Vaccaro will be available on the open market.

Career Stats

Contract

Spotrac doesn’t have a contract estimate for Kenny Vaccaro, but identifies these comparable players:

The similarity score between Vaccaro and Barry Church is in excess of 97%, so it is probably reasonable to look at Church’s contract with Jacksonville as a reasonable proxy for Vaccaro’s likely market price.

OverTheCap provides details of Church’s 4-year, $26m ($6.5m APY) contract:

Kenny Vaccaro, who would be 2 years younger than Church was when he signed with the Jags, would likely be looking at a deal similar to, or slightly better than Church’s. I’d say that he’s likely looking at an APY of around $7m.

Salary may be based more on where he was drafted and potential than anything done on the field. Still upside gets players paid in free agency.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Vaccaro is possibly the most versatile safety in free agency. He averages 6 passes defended and 1.6 INTs per year to go with his 64 tackles. He also has 4 career forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and a TD to add to his resume.

The combination of Vacarro and Swearinger would give the Redskins two of the best safeties from the 2013 draft, and while some feel that the 27 year old Vacarro hasn’t really lived up to his potential, many people said that about Swearinger before he joined the Redskin defensive backfield last season. Personally, I’d rank him a close second (behind Eric Reid) in terms of meeting the Redskins’ safety needs in free agency this off season.

Poll

What should the Redskins do at safety this off-season?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Sign Lamarcus Joyner to a 4 or 5 year deal
    (15 votes)
  • 28%
    Sign Eric Reid to a 4 year deal
    (157 votes)
  • 0%
    Sign Morgan Burnett to a 3 or 4 year deal
    (4 votes)
  • 20%
    Sign Kenny Vaccaro to a 4 year deal
    (116 votes)
  • 19%
    Try to get Derwin James in the first round of the draft
    (108 votes)
  • 28%
    As long as we’ve got Montae Nicholson, we don’t need to spend money on a free agent safety or reach for a safety in the draft. A mid-to-late round backup is fine.
    (158 votes)
558 votes total Vote Now