We've covered a few of the position units on the team already, including Cornerback, Nose Tackle, Wide Receiver, the Offensive Line, and Outside Linebacker, plus many other individual player profiles of potential Draft and Free Agent targets. With the Super Bowl only a day behind us, this place has been very busy trying to figure out exactly what we have and what we need, and where we can turn to for those needs.
One of the most glaring needs, however, is at the Safety positions. As of now, we don't have a starting safety under contract, and there is practically no depth at either position. So let's have a looksie..
Last Season's Key Contributors:
- Yeremiah Bell, SS - 120 tackles (100 solo), 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions.
- Renaldo Hill, FS - 77 tackles (62 solo), 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions.
- Tyrone Culver, FS - 35 tackles (27 solo), 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 1 interception.
Of those three players, Bell and Hill, both starters, are set to hit the Free Agent market if we can't re-sign them. While I fully expect both to be brought back, Hill just turned 30 and Bell will be 31 in March, so we need to bring in some young bucks to eventually take the reigns. Culver was a welcome surprise and played alot on longer 3rd downs in place of Hill at the FS spot, but I don't think he's starting caliber at this point.
I would be looking to upgrade Renaldo Hill during this offseason. We absolutely need to re-sign Yeremiah Bell, he's becoming one of the most consistent SS's in the league, and while he isn't a turnover machine, he came up with quite a few big tackles and deflections last season. Hill at FS, however, isn't the ballhawking playmaker that our secondary needs. All year long is just seemed like he was a step late getting to balls down the field. We also have to add some depth, because as of now, there is no backup SS on the roster. So where can we turn to fill these needs?
Free Agent Targets:
- James Sanders, FS, NE Patriots - At only 25 years old, his best days are still ahead of him, and he's become a solid player in New England's defense. He's 5'10, 210lbs, so he isn't huge, but most of the great FS's in the league are right under 6ft and around 200lbs, so he fits in the typical range. But, while I'd love to start poaching NE players instead of vice versa, I'm wary of taking a Belichick Safety because his scheme may hide some of his flaws.
- OJ Atogwe, FS, STL Rams - Atogwe is one of the top up-and-coming safeties in the league, and at only 27 years old, is only going to get better. He went largely unnoticed as St. Louis struggled through another season, but his 85 tackles, 6 forced fumbles, and 5 interceptions dwarves the production of Renaldo Hill. He had 8 interceptions in 07, so he's definitely got the ballhawking skills we desire.
- Brian Dawkins, FS, PHI Eagles - One of the best in the game for a number of years, Dawkins hasn't dropped of much at the age of 35. But, as with all players, age will eventually be a factor, and for a guy who's launched his body all over the place in his 13 year career, age will most likely be a factor sooner rather than later. If we were on the cusp of a Super Bowl, and had the depth to bring him in on a year-to-year basis, I'd say yes. But the secondary, as a whole, needs to get younger, and Dawkins clearly doesn't fit the blueprint of our rebuilding process.
Potential Draft Target:
- Louis Delmas, FS, Western Michigan projected: 1st round - Delmas had a real strong Senior Bowl, and is widely considered the top safety in the draft at this point. He's projected to go somewhere in the 20-40 range, so we would have to grab him with our first if we want to get him.
- Will Moore, SS, Mizzou projected: 2nd round - Moore was originally projected in the top 15, but a down year coupled with a poor Senior Bowl week has dropped him down into a 2nd round grade. At 6'0 225lbs, he's got the build of a solid Strong Safety, and a good showing at the combine should bump him back up onto the edge of the 1st round. He would most likely be available with the first of our two 2nd rounders.
- Rashad Johnson, FS, Alabama projected: 2nd round - Johnson was All-SEC First Team safety, and is definitely a playmaker, returning 2 of his 5 interceptions for scores. He has good measurables at 5'11 200lbs, and he should be able to run in the low 4.4's. Nick Saban (cringe) touted him as one of the smartest players he's ever coached. Johnson would be a steal at pick #56, but we would most likely have to nab him at 44.
- Derek Pegues, FS, Mississippi St. projected: 3rd round - At only 5'9 190, he's a little on the small side, but he makes up for it speed, quickness, and versatility. He can play all over the field, cover sideline to sideline, and even double as a return man. He showed out in the Senior Bowl, finished tied for 2nd on the South team with 4 tackles, and showing impressive closing speed shutting down a reverse, coming from about 15 yards deep to cut down Derrick Williams for a short gain. He would be a solid pickup in the 3rd round, and opens up a few options on Day 1 because he could very well start right away.
- Michael Hamlin, SS, Clemson projected: 3rd/4th round - At 6'2 210, he's got the size to be that extra box defender, and he can find the ball carrier and make the tackle, as his 91 tackles last season proves. He also proved his worth in pass coverage, totalling 6 interceptions last season and making the All-ACC First Team. He could add depth behind Yeremiah Bell, and take over the starting spot in a few years.
- Trimane Goddard, FS, UNC projected: 6th round - The second team All-American is a classic example of production over measureables. He intercepted 7 passes, running one back for a TD, and broke up 5 others. His stock is hurt by his expected combine numbers, including a mid-4.5's 40 time. But he was able to make plays on the field and a poor combine isn't an indicator of a poor football player. Seems like he would be another Parcells steal in the late rounds, and he would definitely come in with a chip on his shoulder after dropping so far as an All-American. He's a 6'0 195lb prospect that I'd have no qualms with drafting towards the end of Day 2.
As you can see, there's alot of different ways we can decide to fill the needs at the 2 safety spots, but I thnk the first, and most important part, is to re-sign Yeremiah Bell and Renaldo Hill. They afford us more options because we don't ABSOLUTELY need to draft or sign an immediate starter, and there's no reason to create more holes and depth issues by letting either of them walk. What happens after that depends on how the other needs are filled as well as what the draft board looks like. I personally like Rashad Johnson or Derek Pegues with our final first day pick, or wait until late and get Goddard, then focus on the position early in next year's draft if needed (Taylor Mays and Major Wright headline that class). What do you all think?