The Redskins guaranteed Landon Collins nearly $45 million this offseason, and that wasn't all just because the former Giants safety has a deep respect and admiration for the late Sean Taylor.
Washington needs to get the best version of Collins on the field this fall, and for a few seasons in the future, to validate the price tag. The former University of Alabama star can deliver too; his 2016 season in New York is one of the best years by a safety in the last decade. He grabbed five interceptions, made 125 tackles, defended 13 passes and recovered a fumble, landing him on the NFL's All Pro team, the league's highest honor.
No Redskins player has made an All Pro team since 1996. If Collins can touch his 2016 season, the contract is all the way worth it. The baseline for Collins' play will probably be around his other three seasons with the Giants: 100+ tackles, a few interceptions and a true thumping presence over the middle of the Redskins defense.
There are intangibles that Collins will bring, undoubtedly, like leadership and a strong work ethic. And maybe that will help third-year pro, Montae Nicholson.
Earlier this week, assault charges against Nicholson from a December incident outside of a Loudon County bar got dropped. That fight found him suspended for the final two games of 2018, but it appears, the team and the player could be moving forward in 2019. The Redskins declined to comment on the situation.
Nicholson has high-end speed and the ability to cover ground fast, which might be just the right type of player to pair with Collins. If that duo can gel early on, taking advantages of chances to work together throughout OTAs, minicamp and training camp, that could be a big development for the back of the Redskins defense.
It's also important to point out Nicholson is no sure thing. He played well in spurts as a rookie before a disappointing second season. The Redskins thought so highly of Nicholson's level of play that they sent a fourth-round draft pick to Green Bay to acquire Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in midseason. Clinton-Dix also disappointed with his play and he left this offseason as a free agent.
Nicholson has dealt with injury concerns too on top of the off-field issues. Controlling all that, and getting back to his rookie ability, that could be a tall order.
The Redskins need that to happen though, because after Collins and Nicholson, the safety cupboard looks bare.
Deshazor Everett has been a solid special teams player in four seasons with the Redskins but gets very little snaps on defense. For whatever reason, the coaching staff rarely gives him opportunities with the starting group, and that doesn't seem likely to change.
Washington used a fourth-round pick in 2018 on Penn State safety Troy Apke. He has elite speed, but little else. He played in just two games as a rookie amid injuries, and in a year he needed to mold from raw athlete to actual NFL safety, got very little work. The Redskins should have high expectations for Apke since they spent a fourth-rounder on him, but fans would be wise to limit their hopes.
One player to watch with a decent chance at a roster spot: undrafted free agent JoJo McIntosh out of Washington. He doesn't have great speed but was highly productive in college.
The 'Skins safety group is top heavy. Collins needs to prove he's worth getting big money, and the team must hope Nicholson can return to form. If that happens, the unit could be strong. If not, look out below.
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