The Washington Redskins signed safety Justin Hamilton, who was out of the league in 2007, on Friday. Normally, that's all the mention that the acquisition of a street free agent would merit. But Hamilton may, just may, be more than mere camp fodder.
Hamilton is 6-3, 217 and at the 2006 combine he ran 4.55 in the 40. He is a product of Virginia Tech. As a Hokie, he played running back and receiver his first couple of seasons before switching to defense. The Cleveland Browns drafted him in the sixth round and he made the team with a role playing special teams, as many low-round draftees do. In 10 games, he recorded 15 tackles.
In the final round of cuts in 2007, Hamilton was let go. The team said that he was injured in the final preseason game and, although it was only supposed to keep him sidelined for a month, they reached an injury settlement and waived him. That left the team with three safeties, a very low number on a 53-man roster.
I did some poking around to try to find out the nature of his injury. And I found nothing definitive. Someone said it was a knee tweak. Chris Pokorny of Dawgs by Nature told me that the team never said but he thought it might have been a back problem.
The nature of the release would allow him to return to the Browns at any time during the season. And, when Gary Baxter, who was considered the fourth safety, went on injured reserve, those occupying the Dawg Pound thought it was a no-brainer to re-up Hamilton. But he remained unemployed despite the generally dismal state of the Cleveland defense.
And he stayed out of football until the end of May when the Redskins picked him up.
Sometimes there are valid reasons why a guy is out of the league for a year. Sometimes there are not. Gregg Williams used to love to say that there were hundreds of players on the street who, given the right role with the right team, could play.
Hamilton has the size and, if he hasn't lost more than half a step, the speed to play in the NFL. Whatever the nature of his 2007 injury was, it would seem to be something that could heal in eight months. There are no off-field issues that we know of. He could compete for a roster spot.
The tea leaves indicate to me that the knee of sixth-round safety Kareem Moore, which was scoped just after the draft, is not recovering as well as the Redskins would hope.