With all of the emphasis in the NFL on offense, it has become increasingly important for defenses around the League to find a guy or two who is not just a playmaker, but a game-changer. While many of these guys are elite pass rushers, having a stud in the secondary can be highly beneficial as teams try to slow down the high-octane passing attacks used by most offenses. Because of this, you can bet that there will be significant interest in several of the big-name defensive backs on the market. Here, we focus on the safeties.
At strong safety, the Fins should be pretty well set. Yes, Yeremiah Bell is 34 years old, but he’s played in every game the last four seasons and is in as good a physical condition of anyone on the team, in the league, in the world. I’m not saying the team shouldn’t start thinking about life after YB, but it certainly isn’t a pressing need. Free safety, on the other hand, is a little more tricky. Last year the combination of Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons and Tyrone Culver performed solidly, but the trio combined for just one interception (Jones) at a position that, again, teams would like a little more out of.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS:
OJ Atogwe: The Redskins free safety was cut the day before free agency opened up as the Redskins look to figure out their cap difficulties and he presents an interesting case. In just eight starts with Washington, he had three interceptions after six very solid years in St. Louis. Will be interesting to see how much money he gets on the open market.
LaRon Landry: The “other” Redskins safety, Landry is more of a Yeremiah Bell type guy. He’s a name a lot of people know and can certainly help out a team that’s looking for a solid guy at SS. That said, he’s played in just 17 games the last two seasons combined, so buyer beware.
Jim Leonhard: The former Bill, Raven and Jet is certainly familiar with the bulk of the Dolphins’ schedule but has started all 16 games just once in his seven NFL seasons and has only once collected more than one interception in a season. A Rex Ryan guy, he certainly has the brains to put himself in the right position in the defensive backfield.
Reggie Nelson: The former Gator started all 16 games for Kevin Coyle’s defensive backfield in Cincinnati last year and picked off four passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown; forced two fumbles; and collected two sacks. He’ll turn 29 in September but is coming off his best season since his rookie year. Teams will have to decide if they think he’s capable of another big season.
Other safeties that are free agents-to-be include: Atari Bigby, Brian Dawkins, Abram Elam, Brandon Meriweather, and Bob Sanders.
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