Safety is a significant position of need this offseason for the Washington Redskins, who lost one projected starter (Tanard Jackson) to a drug suspension in late August and another (Brandon Meriweather) to recurring knee injuries. Assuming he comes back healthy, there's a reasonable chance the Redskins keep Meriweather as their strong safety, since Washington's coaching staff sees him as a perfect fit for that role in their defense. But assuming is bad business, so you have to believe the Redskins will look to cover themselves at that position, as well as replace Madieu Williams as the starting free safety, once free agency begins.
To that end, here's a partial list of some potential free-agent solutions, keeping in mind the Redskins currently project to be about $4 million over the salary cap because of the league-imposed penalty from last year.
Jairus Byrd. Probably a pipe dream, given (a) that Buffalo wants to keep him and can use the franchise player designation to do so and (b) what he'd cost if he hit the open market. But Byrd fits the Mike Shanahan free agency profile in terms of age (he's 26) and along with San Francisco's Dashon Goldson and Atlanta's William Moore, is one of the top safeties in free agency this year if he makes it there.
Kenny Phillips. Would the Giants let him go? They have cap concerns too, and Stevie Brown (also a free agent, by the way) did pretty well as a playmaking fill-in while Phillips was injured this year. If New York made the tough decision to part with Phillips, he'd be in high demand at age 26, and the Redskins know him well. I think his skills in run support make him a better fit at the strong safety spot in the Redskins' 3-4, so he could be a potential Meriweather replacement if they let Meriweather go, but I'm sure he could play the free safety spot as well.
Louis Delmas. His 2012 injury likely increases the Lions' ability to keep him, but he fits the profile as a guy who'll turn 26 in April and has the abilities as a leader and a thumper that the Redskins need on the back end.
Ryan Mundy. He turns 28 next month, which doesn't push him out of Shanahan's age window for free-agent targets, and the system in which he's played in Pittsburgh is similar enough to what the Redskins run that he could be a good fit. Another guy who probably profiles more as a strong safety in Washington, Mundy might be a cheaper and more reliable alternative if they decide they can't count on Meriweather.
LaRon Landry. Hey, he got through the season healthy with the Jets! That was the Redskins' concern about him. The odds that he and they will both want a reunion seem pretty slim, but I guess stranger things have happened, no?
DeAngelo Hall. The Redskins have a tough decision on Hall, who was one of their starting cornerbacks this year and may need to take a pay cut to return in 2013. It may also be worth exploring the idea of moving Hall to free safety, where his inconsistencies in coverage wouldn't be as much of a liability. Is he up for such a move and the pay cut that likely comes with it? Remains to be seen. His name value could help him get a cornerback job somewhere else. But for all of his quirks, he's well-liked in the Redskins' locker room and by the coaching staff, and he knows the system. Maybe they could convince him to make the switch.
Again, a partial list there, and the Redskins are going to need help at cornerback, too, no matter what happens with Hall. That's a different post for a different time. But I hope this gives Redskins fans something on which to chew for a little while.