- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Mike Jones of the Washington Post takes a look at Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather and wonders whether the Redskins can count on him for a return to full health and productivity in 2013.
Meriweather was the team's big defensive free agent last year, but injuries cost him all but one game and he never got to show the kind of impact he could have on the defense. Mike Shanahan looked at Meriweather as a player whose physical abilities would allow him to play multiple parts in his defense, including run support and blitz packages. The question now is whether Shanahan can reasonably make the same assessment of Meriweather one injury-riddled year later:
It remains to be seen what kind of player Meriweather will be when he recovers. Will he still have the same speed and explosiveness that made him a playmaker in New England? Or, will he struggle with consistency as he did in Chicago, where he wound up benched after only four games?
Meriweather has said repeatedly that the style and philosophy of Jim Haslett’s defense more closely resembles those of the Patriots, and he doesn’t believe his Chicago struggles will repeat themselves in D.C. But a knee that is slow to heal, or one that reduces Meriweather to a lesser player, will prolong the Redskins’ long-standing issues at safety.
As Mike points out later, the Redskins are already on the hunt for a free safety to replace the disappointing Madieu Williams. Tanard Jackson's drug suspension runs at least through August, so they can't expect to have him. My guess is that they will keep Meriweather in the hopes that he makes a full recovery and can be the player they believed he would be. He's costing them about $2.9 million against the salary cap in 2013, and with their salary-cap problems having to find two safeties on the free-agent market might be too expensive. I imagine they'll find Williams' replacement on the open market and then hope Meriweather makes it back. They also could target safety with their second-round draft pick (they don't have a first-rounder), since there appears to be many good options in the draft this year.
But if I'm the Redskins, I'm looking for free safety and operating as though I have my strong safety on the team already. Not an ideal situation given the concerns Mike laid out about Meriweather, but when you're out $18 million in cap room you don't get your ideal situations. I imagine Shanahan will hope he gets Meriweather back, but if he finds someone in the late rounds who reminds him of Meriweather, don't be surprised if Shanahan takes him.