By Rich Tandler
If the Redskins are looking for possible replacement for safety LaRon Landry in free agency, the field has shrunk by one.
Adam Schefter is reporting that the Titans plan on putting the franchise tag on safety Michael Griffin. If that happens he will become the third safety to be tagged after Tyvon Branch of the Raiders and Dashon Goldson of the 49ers.
Our friend Evan Silva of Rotoworld now rates Landry as the top free safety available in free agency. Certainly, a healthy Landry would be one of the top free agents available at any position. But there is a giant question mark surrounding the condition of his Achilles tendon, which has caused him to miss 15 games the past two seasons.
Had Landry gotten the surgical treatment that the Redskins recommended on his injury, the team might have put the franchise tag on him rather than on Fred Davis. Although word is that the alternative treatment he underwent will have him able to pass a physical, there are concerns that the Achilles will not be able withstand the strain of NFL practices and games.
If the Redskins move on from Landry replacing him will not be easy. Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes filled in for him when he was out in 2011. Doughty is best suited to reserve duty and while Gomes could develop into a starter at some point he likely has too far to go to be able to get there by the start of the 2012 season.
We touched on some of the prospects available in the draft with Wes Bunting of the National Football Post last week. If a potential trade to land the rights for Robert Griffin III leaves the Redskins with their second- or third-round pick they could take a safety who might be able to start right away such as Harrison Smith of Notre Dame. However, that would preclude taking a wide receiver for RG3 to target or a tackle to protect him.
Silva rates the Jaguars’ Dwight Lowery as the second-best safety available. He started for Jacksonville most of last year before missing most of the last four games with a shoulder injury. Lowery played solid football before that and at age 26 he is right in the age range the Redskins are expected to target in free agency.
The other top free agents safeties:
--Thomas DeCoud, who is about to turn 27, was the Falcons’ starting strong safety for the last three years. If the Redskins are looking for takeaways he could be the guy as he has eight interceptions in the past three years including four in 2011.
--Reggie Smith was a part-time player for the 49ers last year after starting much of the 2010 season.
--Jim Leonhard has been a starter for the Bills, Ravens, and Jets over the past four years. He will be 30 in October, putting him on the edge of the age group the Redskins consider to be prime free agent targets. That doesn’t mean that they won’t look at Leonhard, who also returns punts.
The situation could force the Redskins to either pay a little more than they would like or to consider players who don’t quite fit the mold in terms of age or in other ways.
It will be interesting to watch when free agency starts a week from tomorrow.