Football Team

Free Agent Targets: 3 safeties with upside WFT should consider

Football Team

With the Super Bowl in the past and the 2020 season in the books, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux and Ryan Homler take a look at 10 potential free agents that the Washington Football Team could benefit from signing this offseason. Next up: a trio of safeties with high upside that won't necessarily cost much.

The safety position for the Washington Football Team in 2020 was a strange one.

Washington's projected starter at free safety entering training camp, Sean Davis, was released during final roster cuts. Troy Apke started the team's first five games before poor play got him benched. Landon Collins, the team's leader and a captain, saw his season end in Week 7 with a ruptured Achilles.

It wasn't all bad, though. Rookie Kamren Curl took over for Collins and quickly blossomed into a solid player. Veteran Deshazor Everett started multiple games for Washington and brought a physical presence to the unit before an injury prematurely ended his season. Replacing Everett was second-year veteran Jeremy Reaves, who showed plenty of potential in limited action, too.

Every player mentioned above is under contract for next season for Washington, but there's no guarantee all will be back. After last year's carousel, Washington will be looking to upgrade its safety depth this offseason, whether that be in the draft or free agency.

The 2020 free agency class at the position is loaded, particularly at free safety. After signing Collins to a six-year, $84 million deal two offseasons ago, it's hard to imagine Washington shelling out the money needed to sign Justin Simmons, Anthony Harris, Marcus Williams or Marcus Maye come March.

 

Here are three low-risk, high-reward safeties Washington could sign.

Malik Hooker

2017 first-round pick from Ohio State; Unrestricted free agent; 6-foot-1 | 214 lbs. | 24 years old

The No. 15 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Malik Hooker entered the league as one of the highest-ranked safety prospects in recent memory.

So, how is he available just four years later?

When the Colts declined Hooker's fifth-year option ahead of last season, it was seen as a controversial decision. But, ultimately, Hooker's inability to stay healthy has proven costly.

Hooker has played in just 36 games in his career, never playing more than 14 games in one year. The safety missed all but two games last year after rupturing his Achilles in the Colts Week 2 clash. 

Hooker's Achilles rupture could scare away Washington, as they already have Collins dealing with the same injury and recovery. However, if they are willing to take the risk, it's one that could surely pay off.

The Colts safety had played a lot of two-high coverages in Indianapolis, but where he excels most is as a single-high safety. In Washington, he would have that freedom, as both Collins and Curl play better closer to the line of scrimmage.

In his first three seasons, Hooker also totaled seven interceptions. While those numbers aren't great, they're solid, and it's clear the safety has a knack for the ball. 

In Washington, a healthy Hooker could play that centerfield role for the Burgundy and Gold. Often in 2020, Washington's defense was guilty of allowing the big play. Adding Hooker would likely change that and it wouldn't cost much, either. He's also only 24 years old, too, with plenty of years of football ahead of him.

Xavier Woods

2017 sixth-round pick from Louisiana Tech; Unrestricted free agent; 5-foot-11 | 202 lbs. | 25 years old

During Ron Rivera's first offseason in Washington last year, the head coach stressed versatility in free agency.

If Rivera wants to find a versatile safety this offseason that can play anywhere in the secondary -- without breaking the bank -- there might not be a better option than Cowboys defensive back Xavier Woods.

Woods can play the typical free safety role being the last line of defense, something Washington certainly needs. But, he's also just as good playing closer to the line of scrimmage and has even played multiple snaps manning the slot.

Washington is also familiar with Woods, as it has played against him twice each of the last four years. Woods has been the Cowboys starter at free safety in each of the last three seasons and one of his five career picks even came against Washington.

A first-time free agent, Woods will likely be looking for a big payday. But, with the market being full of talent, there's a chance he doesn't get an offer for nearly as much as he once hoped.

 

Pro Football Focus predicts Woods to sign a four-year, $25 million deal. That price tag is something Washington should consider for a player of his caliber.

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Jaquiski Tartt

2015 second-round pick from Samford; Unrestricted free agent; 6-foot-1 | 215 lbs. | 28 years old

Sticking with the versatility theme, Jaquiski Tartt is another name that could intrigue Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

In his six seasons with the 49ers, Tartt has played both safety positions and at times, each of them quite well. According to PFF, Tartt has graded out above 75.0 in every category measured for a safety at one point in his career, yet never all in the same season. 

Durability has also been an issue for Tartt, and he's never played in all 16 games in a season and only played in more than nine regular season games once over the past four seasons.

The combination of a deep safety class and durability concerns will likely lower Tartt's asking price, which could be good news for Washington. Pro Football Focus predicts Tartt will sign a contract worth $4.5 million per year, which would be great value for a player of his caliber.

Washington has plenty of options to sign a tier 2 or tier 3 level safety, one that won't cost much and comes with plenty of upside. Now, it's up to Rivera and his newly revamped front office to find the right match.