While the offseason has another month to go, it’s safe to say that offseason personnel and coaching moves are pretty much over. There might be a minor trade or a waiver wire pickup here or there but the cake is mostly baked.
So before training camp starts, let’s take a look back at the five biggest moves of the offseason. We’ll count them down in order of how important they were. Earlier, we looked at the hiring of Raheem Morris. Here we look at some personnel decisions they made with some existing players.
LaRon Landry was a top ten draft pick in 2007 and midway through the 2010 season it looked like signing him when his contract was up after the 2011 season would be a high priority. Injuries and disagreement between the player and the club on how to treat those injuries changed all of that. Landry’s contract expired at the start of free agency on March 13 without the two sides having any serious talks about a new deal.
The Redskins signed O. J. Atogwe to team up with Landry to give them what they thought would be one of the better safety tandems in the league for the next few seasons. Injuries derailed his season and the Redskins decided not to bet the $4 million they were slated to pay him in 2012 that he would stay healthy this year.
It is possible that the Redskins were on the fence about keeping Atogwe when they were blindsided by the NFL’s $36 million cap penalty and then decided to cut bait. It was thought that the penalty, $18 million of which had to be take this year, might force the Redskins to jettison some high-priced veterans in order to stay under the cap.
Among those who were thought to be in jeopardy were Chris Cooley and Santana Moss, who carry 2012 salaries of $3.8 million and $2.6 million respectively. Cooley was already a backup with the emergence of Fred Davis and Moss got pushed further down the down the depth chart when the Redskins signed Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan. But with training camp starting next month, both have remained on the roster.
With their available salary cap dollars reduced, the Redskins found themselves with only two safeties with NFL experience on their roster. While DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty both started some games, neither is the caliber player you want to rely on for 16 games.
However, with the cap constraints and a weak free agent market at the position, the Redskins had to make do with who they could sign. Brandon Meriweather joined his third team in seven months when the Redskins signed him on March 15. In mid-April the Bucs released Tanard Jackson, whose career had been disrupted by injuries and substance abuse related suspensions. The Redskins signed him a few days later. The 30-year-old Madieu Williams signed on April 10.
While Jim Haslett’s defense will have to make do with a bargain basement group of safeties, Kyle Shanahan, at least to this point, has some high-priced depth to rely on to help Robert Griffin III adjust to life in the NFL.
Over the last couple of years, Haslett’s has benefitted from having a lot of draft picks and free agent dollars sent in the direction of his unit so it’s hard for him to cry foul. But we will see if gambling on a low-cost safety unit pays off.