Offseason Acquisitions Report Card: Defense

News Washington Commanders

The Redskins were in need of an overhaul after a disappointing 2003 season that produced the NFL’s 25th-ranked defense. The 2004 offseason proved to be a success defensively, with the team signing eight eventual starters. This article is the second in a series of three that evaluates the players that were acquired by the Redskins in 2004.

Cornerback Shawn Springs

When Shawn Springs signed with the Redskins on March 4th, he returned home. Springs, born in Williamsburg, Virginia, grew up in Silver Springs, Maryland and attended Springbrook High School. He closely followed the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry throughout his childhood mainly because his father, Ron, played for the Cowboys from 1979-1984.

Despite signing a 6-year, $30 million contract with the Redskins after missing 13 games the previous three seasons due to injuries, Springs never felt the pressure of living up to the contract while also replacing departed cornerback Champ Bailey. After spending 7 years in Seattle, he was just excited to be home.

Springs proved to be worth the investment. Every week it appeared he was making an impact in some capacity. Whether it was a pass break-up, interception, sack or even a simple tackle, Springs was a valuable member of the Redskins defense. Past injuries were not a factor in 2004. Springs started 15 games for the Redskins and only missed one game after suffering a jarring hit from Philadelphia Eagles fullback Josh Parry which resulted in a concussion. Springs lay on the field motionless until being carted off on a stretcher and giving the “thumbs-up” to the FedEx Field crowd on hand.

Springs became only the third player in NFL history to lead his team in sacks and interceptions in a single season. He picked off 5 passes and tied Cornelius Griffin for the team lead in sacks with 6. Springs also made 64 tackles, defended 12 passes, and forced a fumble.

He was named a 3rd alternate to the 2005 Pro Bowl. It is possible that if Fred Smoot departs from Washington, Shawn will replace him as the team’s No. 1 cornerback. Springs excelled in his first season as a Redskin and it is likely that he will do more of the same in 2005.

Grade: A+

Linebacker Marcus Washington

2004 brought the best out of Marcus Washington. Washington, drafted in the 2nd round of the 2000 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts, finished second on the team with a career-high 130 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He also finished the season with 2 passes defended and led the team with 11 quarterback pressures. Marcus made his first Pro Bowl appearance as a Redskin and recorded two tackles in a solid performance. Despite having the No.1 defense in the NFC, Marcus was the only member of the Redskins to play in the Pro Bowl.

Washington spent 4 seasons as a Colt and averaged 4.5 sacks and 77.5 tackles per season. Marcus was a defensive end while at Auburn but was considered fast enough to be switched to linebacker. While he enjoyed playing on a winning team in Indianapolis, Marcus also enjoyed the freedom that being a strong-side linebacker gave him and does not regret his decision to sign a 6-year, $24 million deal with the Redskins. He was able to rush the passer, roam the field to make a play and drop back in coverage. His outstanding season resulted from his speed, athleticism and energy that he exuberated on the field each week.

Grade: A+

Defensive Tackle Cornelius Griffin

Cornelius Griffin did not gain superstar status during his 4 seasons as a New York Giant. Cornelius, drafted by New York in the 2nd round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Alabama, started 45 of 60 games but only recorded 190 tackles and 12.5 sacks from 2000-2003. He was known for making a big play every once in a while but otherwise went unnoticed.

A change of scenery was in store as Griffin signed with the Redskins on the first day of free agency for $25.5 million over 6 years. That seemed to be a lot of money for someone labeled as an underachiever in New York but he seemed intent on proving himself. Griffin, shy and soft spoken, declined to speak at the press conference announcing his signing. He told Coach Gibbs that he wanted to do his talking on the field.

In 2004, Griffin struggled with injuries from mini camp through the preseason. Cornelius started 14 games and amassed career highs in tackles (70), sacks (6, tied for the team lead with Shawn Springs) and passes defended (6).

He was named a 4th alternate to the 2005 Pro Bowl but his numbers indicate that he was snubbed and was deserved to be named a starter.

His consistency and aggressiveness on a week-to-week basis paid off for Griffin, as he quickly became the anchor for the league’s 2nd ranked rushing defense. Griffin earned the team’s “2004 Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year” award, which is given out annually to the team’s MVP.

Grade: A+

Defensive Tackle Joe Salave’a

The Redskins invited Salave’a to try out with a handful of other unrestricted free agents during the team’s March mini-camp. He impressed the coaches and was signed to a one-year deal.

Salave’a was drafted by the Tennessee Titans (then known as the Tennessee Oilers) in the 4th round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He played for Gregg Williams from 1998-2000 when Williams was the team’s defensive coordinator before heading north to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2001. Salave’a played in Tennessee through the 2001 season but was out of football in 2002 after being released before the regular season. He signed with the Ravens in January 2003 and spent time on the team during preseason and was cut for the second time by the team in October. He signed with the San Diego Chargers later that month. He started 1 game in 2003, while appearing in 9. He was released after the season.

Joe quickly became one of the many overachievers on the Redskins’ No. 3 defense. He started a career-high 11 games in the regular season. He totaled 30 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 passes defended and 1 forced fumble. He brought a lot of energy and passion to the defensive line.

Salave’a is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and may receive interest from other teams but it is likely that Gregg Williams will want to quickly re-sign the 7-year veteran.
Grade: B+

Safety Ryan Clark

The move to sign Ryan Clark went relatively unnoticed throughout Redskins Park during the first day of training camp. He was just another anonymous name to add to the roster.

Clark was signed by the New York Giants in 2002 as an undrafted free agent out of LSU. He was mainly used on special teams during his rookie season but saw more playing time in 2003 as the roster became decimated with injuries. Coming off of a season in which he started 4 games, recorded 23 tackles, 1 sack and 2 passes defended, Clark was determined to prove his worth as a member of the Washington Redskins in 2004.

The most attention Clark garnered during the summer was due to the erroneous reports of his release by the Washington Post and the Associated Press. The reports were quickly refuted by Redskins officials.

Little did he know, his presence on defense would be much-needed in 2004. The Redskins started the regular season with Matt Bowen and Andre Lott at strong and free safety, respectively. Along with rookie Sean Taylor, Clark filled in for Bowen and Lott, both of whom eventually suffered season ending injuries and were placed on injured reserve in October.

Clark was not a “big play” safety but proved to be a sure-tackler. Clark finished 4th on the team and led all defensive backs with a career-high 91 tackles.

It is safe to assume that Sean Taylor and Matt Bowen will return to their starting roles in 2005 but Clark will be given a fair chance to make his mark for a second consecutive season, whether it is in the defensive backfield or on special teams.

Grade: B+

Defensive End Demetric Evans

Demetric Evans signed with the Redskins in June after spending the spring playing for the NFL Europe’s Cologne Centurions. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2001 as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia and stayed with the team until he was cut before the 2003 regular season.

He surprised many by even making the final roster. He was inactive for the first 2 games but appeared in his first game against the Cowboys in Week 3 in reserve duty. Two weeks later he made his first career start at right end in place of injured Phillip Daniels. Evans started 8 of the last 11 games and totaled 31 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 1 pass defended.

Evans performed very well while filling in for Phillip Daniels. He was reliable and consistent week in and week out. Evans is a restricted free agent in 2005.

Grade: B

Cornerback Walt Harris

The Redskins signed Harris to a 3-year deal in mid-March after battling a career-threatening tendonitis injury in his right knee in 2003 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Harris, a former 1st round pick by the Chicago Bears in 1996, started 113 games during his 8 years in the NFL.

Despite being a starter his whole career, he was slated to battle for the Redskins’ No. 3 cornerback spot due to the signing of Shawn Springs.

Harris was held out of practices until the preseason and played in all 16 of the Redskins regular season games. Most of his season was spent on special teams and backup duty but he started two of the last 3 games of the season. On defense, he made 18 tackles, picked off 2 passes, forced 1 fumble and defended 3 passes. Harris was equally effective on special teams, returning a blocked punt 13 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions in Week 9 and blocking a punt against the New York Giants in Week 13.

Harris was very solid in reserve duty and proved to be a big contributor to special teams. It is possible that if Fred Smoot does not re-sign with the Redskins, that Harris will be named the team’s No. 2 cornerback in 2005.

Grade: B-

Defensive End Phillip Daniels

The Chicago Bears were shopping Daniels weeks before March 3rd but they were unable to find suitors for a trade and subsequently released the versatile defensive end. The Redskins signed Daniels one day before free agency began for 5 years, $11 million.

Daniels was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 4th round of the 1996 NFL Draft. He spent 4 years in Seattle and spent the next four seasons in Chicago. Throughout his 8 seasons with Seattle and Chicago, he gathered 393 tackles and 44.5 sacks.

His connection with former Bears defensive coordinator and current Redskins defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Greg Blache made his transition from Chicago to Washington easy to accept.

Daniels 12 twelve games in 2004 because of a major groin strain injury. He missed 7 of the first 11 games because of the injury and suffered a dislocated wrist during the team’s Week 13 victory over the New York Giants. He was placed on Injured Reserve on December 8th.

In the 5 games he started, he gathered only 4 tackles and 1 sack. For an 8-year veteran, he was rather ineffective but was solid at times and showed some aggression.

The Redskins will most likely be looking for a speedy defensive end that specializes in pass-rushing this offseason.

Grade: D

Cornerback Ralph Brown

The Redskins were looking for added depth at cornerback when they signed Ralph Brown to compete with Walt Harris and Rashad Bauman for the nickel back spot behind starting cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot.

Brown was drafted by the New York Giants in the 5th Round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Nebraska. As a member of the New York Giants from 2000-2003, he played in 37 games and posted 68 tackles, 1 sack and 3 interceptions.

His breakout season came in 2003 when he started 7 games and appeared in 11 for an injury plagued New York defense. Brown totaled 41 tackles, forced 1 fumble, defended 2 passes, intercepted 2 passes and returned 1 for a touchdown. However, he lost his starting job later that year due to a shoulder injury which put him on injured reserve and ended his season.

Brown played in the preseason for the Redskins but failed to play well on a consistent basis. He was cut after he struggled to cover Torry Holt in the Redskins’ 28-3 loss to the St. Louis Rams. The release was not necessarily based on his poor performance because the coaching staff was quickly becoming enamored with rookie cornerbacks Garnell Wilds and Rufus Brown.

He signed with the Minnesota Vikings shortly after Week 1 of the regular season and appeared in 12 games. He totaled 7 tackles during the regular season and appeared in both of Minnesota’s playoff games. He recorded 1 tackle and picked off a Brett Favre pass and returned it 27 yards in Minnesota’s Wild Card victory against the Green Bay Packers.

The signing of Ralph Brown proved to be a bad decision. For a player heading into his 5th season, his play in the preseason was sub par and was not good enough for him to make the Redskins’ final roster.

Grade: E+

Linebacker Mike Barrow

Mike Barrow was drafted out of the University of Miami (Fl.) by the Houston Oilers in the 2nd round of the 1993 NFL Draft. In Houston, he was coached by Gregg Williams, who was the team’s special teams coach in 1993 and the team’s linebackers coach from 1994-1996. In 1997, Barrow left Houston to join the Carolina Panthers, where he spent 3 seasons. He signed with the New York Giants in 2000 and helped lead the team to Super Bowl XXXV. In 2003, Barrow gathered 177 tackles, which was a career-high and led the NFC. He also had 2 sacks, 4 passes defended and forced 3 fumbles.

He was cut by the Giants in March after failing to re-structure his contract. He scared off many teams with his age and the money he requested. By mid-April, he lowered his demands and signed a 6-year, $15.1 million contract with the Redskins. He was immediately slated to replace Jeremiah Trotter, who turned out to be a disappointment after signing a 7-year, $36 million contract in 2002.

At 34, Barrow is known for his tremendous work ethic and outstanding physical health but he suffered tendonitis in his left knee during training camp. He missed all five of the team’s preseason games. Barrow monitored the injury and took it week-by-week but was inactive for the first 11 games. His season officially ended on November 24th when he was placed on injured reserve.

His injury paved the way for Antonio Pierce to become the Redskins full-time starter at middle linebacker. Pierce took advantage of his chance and put up career numbers and was named a second alternate for the 2005 Pro Bowl. Pierce is an unrestricted free agent this offseason but is likely to be re-signed by the team.

With the injury still affecting him and the probable return of Pierce, it appears that Barrow’s time in Washington may be coming to an end.

Grade: E

— Junior Hog

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell

Please share