Washington Redskins: Sam Shields

Two names stood out when it came to who the fans wanted in free agency. Beyond that, there’s little agreement as to who the Redskins should sign when free agency begins Tuesday.

In a Redskins Nation Twitter survey, 19 of 75 voters named Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd as their top choice for whom they wanted Washington to sign. The runner-up? Giants defensive lineman Linval Joseph with 14 votes.

Obviously both would fill a need. The Redskins have been unable to solve the safety position ever since Sean Taylor died in 2007. Byrd would offer a legitimate free safety, who would enable the Redskins to use more eight-man boxes with a single-high look. But he’d also cost around $9 million per year. Joseph would provide another strong end against the run, with the potential for collapsing the pocket. He’s not as pricey as Byrd.

But after those two players? Redskins fans were all over the place. Nine other players received more than one vote: New England linebacker Brandon Spikes (3), Carolina safety Mike Mitchell (3), Cincinnati offensive lineman Anthony Collins (3), Cleveland safety T.J. Ward (3), Miami safety Chris Clemons (2), New England corner Aqib Talib (2), Green Bay corner Sam Shields (2), Cleveland center Alex Mack (2) and Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby (2). Shields, of course, is now off the market, having re-signed with the Packers.

Of course, every one of those players would fill a hole. I’m a Dansby fan, but I’m guessing Arizona keeps him. Spikes would be good against the run, but was removed on passing downs. Mitchell would probably be paired with Talib as a way to fill the safety/corner void. Talib will be costly, perhaps around $10 million per year -- a hefty sum for someone who hasn’t played more than 13 games since 2009. His injury past should bump the price down, but I don’t know if it will.

Two voters named a combination of Perry Riley and Brian Orakpo as their top targets. Orakpo, of course, was given a franchise tag but if another team really wanted him it could still pursue him. But they’d have to pay him a lot of money and then surrender two first-round picks. That’s what we call a longshot, folks.

All totaled, there were 31 different players named with 20 of them on defense.

Here are some of the responses to the question: Which player would you most like the Redskins to sign?

Quick takes: Aqib Talib

March, 9, 2014
Mar 9

  • Yes, the Washington Redskins are interested in New England cornerback Aqib Talib, who will be a free agent Tuesday. They were among the teams that contacted him, but this is clearly no surprise. I’m not sure of a Redskins beat reporter who didn’t speculate on this possibility. But they have contacted a number of players, or, more accurately, their agents: (among them based on reports: tackle Anthony Collins; safety Mike Mitchell, who was among the first contacted; and defensive lineman Arthur Jones). All of these make sense and have been speculated about, but they won’t sign them all. Collins, for example, would be a good right tackle, but I’d imagine he’ll get paid as a left tackle.
  • [+] EnlargeAqib Talib
    AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerFree agent Aqib Talib would give the Redskins three cornerbacks capable of starting.
    It doesn’t mean they will sign him, but with the connections between Talib and Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris, it makes sense the Redskins would be interested. That and the fact that they need another cornerback. The Redskins' third corner last season was David Amerson, who played 67 percent of the defensive snaps.
  • There is a lot to like about Talib. He’s a good cornerback and has transformed his reputation playing in New England. I remember being told when he was in Tampa Bay that he was a guy who wanted to be a leader, but really didn’t know how and that he wasn’t a bad guy but acted improperly. With the Patriots, that leadership side emerged.
  • But this is big: Would that side continue in Washington? Or was it a function of being in an environment such as New England’s? I’m not blaming Morris, because I wasn’t there, but under his leadership as Tampa's head coach Talib had issues. It could simply be because he was young. I don’t know. I do remember the Redskins having issues with Talib before he was drafted. After Morris was fired, numerous reports cited that things were too lax. Morris is not in charge here, but was that why Talib struggled there or was he just young? I'm not smart enough to say, nor do I know Talib at all, other than talking to people and reading reports.
  • That said, it sure seems the combination of a stable environment, a strong head coach and a solid organization helped Talib. He learned what it took to be a successful pro. The Redskins have a first-year head coach and an organization that has much to prove. That does not mean Talib would revert to bad habits, but this difference is worth discussing.
  • Talib has size (6-foot-1), can play physical and move inside and out. Every team needs three cornerbacks capable of starting, and the Redskins would have that. How good some of those cornerbacks are can be debated. But Talib’s ability to play inside and out would be welcomed. The Redskins don’t have a third cornerback you can count on right now. Of course, it’s still just March.
  • The Pro Bowl is a popularity contest, but Talib has made just one (this year). Take that for what it’s worth.
  • But if it’s going to take big money to sign Talib, then you must have buyer beware. For comparison, Sam Shields' Green Bay deal was four years, $39 million; but he’s two years younger than Talib. Brent Grimes re-upped with Miami for four years and $32 million with $16 million guaranteed. He'll be 31 in July and has played in every game in three of the past five seasons, but appeared in a combined 13 games the other two years. Of course, I’d want to see the breakdown of Shields’ contract first, before knowing how to use it as a guide.
  • Another aspect, and this is rather big: Talib’s injury history. He hasn’t played more than 13 games since 2009. It’s tough to justify a big contract for someone with this history. Players don’t become more durable as they get older (he's 28). I don’t think I’d jump out and give him a big deal at the start of free agency (of course, this depends on what sort of deal it is). This one will require discipline on the part of the Redskins. I think we'll learn something about them based on how this unfolds.