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D.J. Swearinger's sudden release alters Redskins' offseason plans

D.J. Swearinger's sudden release alters Redskins' offseason plans

Jay Gruden had enough.

At least that’s the apparent message upon learning the Washington Redskins released D.J. Swearinger Monday. The strong safety, a frequent public critic of the coaching staff, made another series of strong statements following Saturday’s road loss at Tennessee.  

By choosing this moment and more specifically this player for some arguably needed pushback, Gruden and other decision makers shoved safety higher on the team’s 2019 need’s list.

How high? Putting aside the uncertainty with quarterback Alex Smith’s leg injury, safety is now arguably the No. 1 priority entering the offseason.

Several positions could make that claim including edge rusher, guard, inside linebacker and tight end depending on other personnel choices entering free agency. Safety ranked fifth in NBC Sports Washington’s recent projection for 2019 needs.

To some that seemed overcooked considering the presence of Swearinger, who was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate this season. That rank primarily indicated the concerns at the other safety slot and overall depth, but also the possibility of Swearinger not returning due to his penchant for outbursts. 

The safety played in all 31 games for the Redskins during his two seasons after signing a 3-year, $13 million contract in 2017.  His release costs the Redskins $1.33 million toward the salary cap for next season.

Now that the Redskins are eliminated from the playoff race, Swearinger’s departure ahead of Week 17 is more about the future than the present. Therefore it would seem to reason based on this personnel move that Gruden returns for 2019 despite recent speculation over his future. The Redskins have missed the playoffs in four of his five seasons as head coach.    

Should the Redskins re-sign free agent linebacker Preston Smith, the edge need drops down the 2019 needs list, though more pass rush help is required. Same with keeping ILB Zach Brown (though that seems like a dubious assumption considering his recent benching) and tight end Jordan Reed, though the two veterans are potential cap casualties.

Washington’s offensive line remains a strength, when healthy, but the left guard spot needs a talent transfusion. None of the in-house candidates are obvious starters, but some are capable of filling in if available resources are spent elsewhere.

At safety, there is no backup plan for Swearinger. Should free safety and 2019 free agent Ha Ha Clinton-Dix not return, the Redskins would be down two starters.

Montae Nicholson, the one potential replacement for Clinton-Dix, was suspended for the final two weeks of the season following a recent arrest for his involvement in an altercation. Nicholson also barely played after Washington acquired Clinton-Dix before the NFL trading deadline.

Troy Apke, a 2018 fourth-round pick, made zero impact defensively before landing on injured reserve. Deshazor Everett remains more of a special teams option.

Amazingly, the Swearinger-Nicholson tandem gave Washington its best starting safeties in years. This position more than any other on the roster compared to the drummer drama for the fictional rock band Spinal Tap. No matter whom the organization signed or drafted, the plan always exploded in their face.

That seemingly changed last season. Swearinger provided the secondary with an assertive presence. This season Swearinger turned in some of his better work, particularly early in the campaign, though concerns with his tackling inconsistency exist. He had two games with two interceptions including the Week 8 road win over the Giants.

Washington selected Nicholson in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Injuries limited the Michigan State product to eight games during his rookie season, but he started six. His size combined with impressive coverage range stood out. Gruden called Nicholson the Jordan Reed of the defense because of how he positively affected game plans.

Yet his struggles this season led to Washington trading a 2019 fourth round pick for Clinton-Dix. The one-time Pro Bowler hasn’t produced at that level for the Redskins. The Swearinger release could swing leverage with any upcoming negotiations Clinton-Dix’s way.

Swearinger’s pointed criticisms Saturday were hardly his first in the public forum. Along with X’s and O’s concerns, he’s been a frequent critic of how the stay-medium Gruden runs practices during his two seasons in Washington. Swearinger, who denied reports that he was disruptive during a previous stint with the Houston Texans, has played for four teams in six NFL seasons. 

His exit from Washington certainly changes the perception at safety going forward and where the position ranks on the list of team needs entering the offseason. 

 

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Redskins 2019 7-round mock draft: #3 The 'Best Available' Scenario

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Redskins 2019 7-round mock draft: #3 The 'Best Available' Scenario

Time for the third and final look at the Redskins’ projected 7-round draft, each with a different approach but ultimately the same goal: Fill holes and upgrade the roster.

These choices are based on a combination of conversations with league sources, homework, intuition plus remaining needs. These different paths are akin to a “Choose your adventure” book. The Redskins have four of the top 97 selections and a lengthy needs list.  

We went “Living on the edge” in the first version and didn’t pass on the future in the second. Click here for the latest two-round NFL mock draft, but only after reading the second path.

PATH 3 -- Best available

First Round, Pick No. 15: Cody Ford, T/G, Oklahoma

Maybe we can quibble over the likely best offensive lineman if not player, but there's no denying the need and CBS Sports ranks Ford No. 16 overall. The buzz remains positive for the mauler who doubles as the top guard prospect and for some the third best tackle prospect. The Redskins should be desperate to fill their vacant left guard spot after the revolving door the prior two seasons.

Ford would also provide a tackle hedge should Trent Williams or Morgan Moses deal with injuries again. It’s also worth noting Brandon Scherff’s contract extension remains in limbo.

Second Round, Pick No. 46: Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

The only thing larger than this massive 6-foot-5 target is his wide draft range. The Draft Network views the Baltimore native who averaged 22 yards on 60 receptions last season a top 20 selection. ESPN considers the same player, one with drop concerns, outside the top 75. What we know is the Redskins have stated publicly the need for size -- and production -- at receiver.

Third Round, Pick No. 77: Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame

Some believe that corner ranks among the Redskins' top concerns considering Quinton Dunbar's season-ending nerve injury, Josh Norman possibly turning into a cap casualty or not returning in 2020, and overall depth. Love played 38 games over his three seasons with the Fighting Irish.

The All-American corner was the rare defensive back not repeatedly tortured by Clemson passer Trevor Lawrence during the college football playoffs. His draft projected fits on the second/third round line.

Third Round, Pick No. 97: Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis

These first four selections in this path are with a BPA mindset. On Day 2 that strict approach could easily mean one of several running backs including this explosive game-breaker. The 5-foot-8, 208-pound Henderson averaged 8.9 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons while scoring a combined 31 touchdowns. While grabbing an RB seems highly unlikely, let’s remember that Adrian Peterson is now 34, Derrius Guice is coming off a torn ACL, and the shifty but injury-prone Chris Thompson enters free agency in 2020.

Fifth Round, Pick No. 154: Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State

Is it outrageous to think the Redskins could select two wide receivers in the draft? Go look at the depth chart before answering no. In this case, the target has skills worthy of first-round consideration, namely an impressive catch radius and willingness to fight for contested throws. Character red flags dropped Williams into the middle rounds if not off the board for some teams.

Fifth Round, Pick No. 174: Evan Worthington, S, Colorado.

The 6-foot-2 can play a variety of spots including the neede high safety. Nobody would expect a fifth-round pick to start, but that's possible simply considering the current uncertainty with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix joining the Bears. From NFL.com: "Worthington's value to teams could depend on where they project him since he's played all over the field. He has the size, athleticism and ball skills to handle a variety of man-cover targets from the slot or as a deep safety."

Sixth Round, Pick No. 208: Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State

The East Carolina transfer piled up the stats in his one year running Mike Leach’s offense, finishing with 4,779 yards, 38 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year is an accurate thrower, but his lack of size and fears of being a system QB work against him. Any quarterback drafted by the Redskins stands a chance at being the only healthy one on the roster entering next off-season.

Seventh Round, Pick No. 229: Jordan Brailford, DE, Oklahoma

The 250-pound edge rusher had 10 sacks in 2018 yet consistently ranks in the 200’s among 2019 draft prospects. The Draft Network on Brailford: “Not very nimble, off balance and ending up on the ground on multiple occasions.”

Seventh Round, Pick No. 255:  Keenan Brown, TE, Texas State

Granted the idea of selecting two tight ends seems odd. Pro Football Focus selected Brown first-team All-American based primarily on his work after the catch. He forced more than 24 missed tackles, more than double the next closest TE.

UDFA: Josh Watson, ILB, Colorado State

The 240-pounder receives virtually no interest from the public big boards despite amassing 240 tackles combined the last two seasons. One league source calls Watson a “steal.”

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Ryan Kerrigan electrifies crowd, chugs beer through his shirt in nod to T.J. Oshie

Ryan Kerrigan electrifies crowd, chugs beer through his shirt in nod to T.J. Oshie

There was only one way for Redskins linebacker and Capitals fan Ryan Kerrigan to show his support for TJ Oshie and the Caps prior to Game 5 when he led fans in the "Let's Go Caps" chant at Capital One Arena. 

He chugged some beer through his shirt - a nod to the move Oshie introduced to Caps fans and the world during last summer's Stanley Cup celebration.

Kerrigan joined fans and the Capitals showing support for the Capitals forward heading into Game 5 of the series between the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, following an injury he suffered in Game 4.

While Kerrigan will be spending Game 5 in the stands hoping to help the team through motivation, he was also prepared to take a much more hands-on approach in order to try and get a victory.

Ahead of Saturday's Game 5 matchup between the Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, Kerrigan stopped by NBC Sports Washington's Caps Pregame Live coverage to explain how he's ready to suit up and throw his body around on the ice if the Caps need him.

"I'm here, I got a jersey on. I'm ready to roll," Kerrigan said.

His services may be of interest to Washington, as the series has proven to be a physical one. However, there is one little piece of adversity both sides might have to overcome.

"I can't skate very well," Kerrigan admitted. "So that might be a little bit of a hiccup there."

So while Kerrigan may not be exactly what the Caps need, the Redskin's willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win is a testament to his fandom of Washington's hockey team. Since he became a part of the D.C. sports community 2011, he's grown fond of a sport he didn't follow much growing up.

"Growing up in Indiana, we don't have a team there, it was all basketball for us in Indiana," Kerrigan said. "Since I got here, everyone is so passionate about the Caps, it was easy to become a fan and really dive into hockey."

Now immersed in the sport, Kerrigan tried out his analyst skills as well prior to the matchup.

"I think they got to come out the gates hot, I think they got to come out physical," Kerrigan said. "They got to come out and be physical. I'm a defensive guy, you got to be physical."

He also predicted that Nicklas Backstrom would have an impact on the game, and with Backstrom opening up the scoring early on in the contest, it seems as if Kerrigan may have a profession to fall back on after football.

Yet when the puck drops, Kerrigan will act just like the thousands of other Caps fans packed into Capital One Arena. One the edge of his seat, living and dying with every second that ticks, Kerrigan is more into the game than ever before.

"Especially coming off the Stanley Cup last year, we're wanting to go back-to-back now," Kerrigan said. "My wife and I watched every game last year during the postseason run. We were yelling really loud when they were winning, we were really focused when things weren't going so well.  No different this postseason."

Speaking of his wife and family, Kerrigan also took some time to talk about his new life as a father following the birth of his daughter Lincoln last month. Just around 40 days into parenting, it's safe to say that the bruising linebacker has found a soft spot for his little girl.

"That's all I heard going up to it. Little girl will change your life, little girl will melt your heart and I'm like, 'yeah yeah whatever,'" Kerrigan said. "And then I held her for the first time and I'm crying, this is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

Though Kerrigan may have a soft spot there, opposing quarterbacks shouldn't get their hopes up. According to him, he's still ready to be as physical as ever when he hits the gridiron.

"Only she can get the soft dad," Kerrigan said with a smile.

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