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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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2020 NFL Draft to include virtual moment of draft picks meeting Roger Goodell

2020 NFL Draft to include virtual moment of draft picks meeting Roger Goodell

The coronavirus pandemic will prevent 2020 NFL Draft picks from experiencing the post-selection handshake with commissioner Roger Goodell, but that doesn't mean this year's draft will be completely devoid of that moment. 

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, EA Sports will create a virtual moment featuring Goodell shaking hands with each team's first-round pick to go along with a remote draft. 

In order to do this as accurately as possible, EA Sports reached out to a number of likely first-round picks to get an idea of how they planned to greet the commissioner the moment they were drafted. 

Each prospect will also choose a high school to receive a $2,500 grant toward its football program. 

Whether the Redskins draft Chase Young, Tua Tagovailoa or trade back, Washington fans will be able to see their newest addition virtually walk across the draft stage.

The 2020 NFL Draft will be anything but normal compared to recent years, though it'll at least have a few items like this to make it an enjoyable night for everyone involved. 

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How to watch NBC Sports Washington's Mock Draft Mondays

How to watch NBC Sports Washington's Mock Draft Mondays

It's hard to believe, but the NFL Draft is less than three weeks away.

To break everything down, both the Redskins and Ravens crews here at NBC Sports Washington will debut a special show, Mock Draft Monday's presented by Papa John's, on Monday, April 6.

The Redskins hold the second overall pick in this year's draft, and many expect them to select Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young. Several draft experts have deemed Young as a generational talent and a can't miss prospect. But there's also the option of trading down in the draft to acquire more assets, and a QB-needy team like the Miami Dolphins at No. 5 could be a potential trade partner.

In addition to discussing what the Redskins will do with the No. 2 pick, the Redskins Talk crew will speak with newly-signed cornerback Kendall Fuller, Super Bowl-winning QB Joe Theismann, and Miami Dolphins beat reporter Safid Deen, who discusses a potential trade with Washington.

A total of 26 picks in the first round will pass between when the Redskins make their choice at No. 2 and when the Baltimore Ravens make their selection at No. 28, barring neither side makes a trade. The Ravens have multiple positions of need, such as both the interior offensive and defensive line, as well as wide receiver. What Baltimore will do at the end of the first round remains a mystery.

In NBC Sports Washington's latest Mock Draft, the Redskins unsurprisingly select Young at No. 2 while the Ravens nab Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray.

<<CLICK HERE FOR MOCK DRAFT 14.0>>

Here's everything you need to know.

NBCSW's Mock Draft Mondays: How to watch

What: Mock Draft Mondays presented by Papa John's

When: Monday, April 6

Time: 6:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Channel: NBC Sports Washington (channel finder

Redskins Talent: JP Finlay, Julie Donaldson, Pete Hailey, Brian Mitchell, and Mitch Tischler

Ravens Talent: Andrew Gillis and Jordan Giorgio

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