The Redskins added a solid young cornerback, Chris Culliver, on Friday morning -- he signed a four-year deal worth up to $32 million. His cap hit this year will be a reasonable $5 million. But his signing does lead to some questions:
How good is he?
Culliver is a solid corner. At 6-foot-0 and 190 pounds, he has good size and speed. When I’ve asked around, no one has considered him a budding Pro Bowl candidate, but nobody has said he’s bad, either. One former NFL coach wasn’t impressed by his instincts. But for the most part, he can play. He did have a torn ACL in 2013, and you wonder how much that had an impact on him last season -- and if it will lead to improved play this season. You could do worse than Culliver; you could do better. But he's an improvement.
Who will start at corner?
Clearly, you don’t sign Culliver at this price and expect him to be a backup. He’s a starter. But that leaves the Redskins with three other corners who started here: David Amerson, Bashaud Breeland and DeAngelo Hall. All have question marks of their own. Amerson is coming off a tough season; Breeland played well for the most part but committed 12 penalties (two shy of the league high). And Hall is coming off a torn Achilles tendon -- will he even be ready? As the Redskins have discovered, you need good depth at corner.
Who will play the slot?
Culliver played in the nickel in San Francisco in 2011 and 2012, but he was usually on the outside, and that likely will be the case in Washington. Amerson is not a slot corner, but Breeland played inside at times last season (against Indianapolis, and he fared well). Hall struggled in the slot two years ago. The Redskins could sign corner Perrish Cox, Culliver’s teammate in San Francisco who visited Wednesday; he can play inside.
Are they done at corner?
I don’t think so. One source said the Redskins have told people they planned to sign two corners this offseason. They already met with Cox, but he also has visited Cleveland and is in Tennessee on Friday, with another unnamed team also interested. The Redskins wanted to bring in Brandon Browner on Thursday, but he signed instead with New Orleans. If they sign another corner, I’d imagine they would cut Tracy Porter. It wouldn’t make much sense to keep him -- and they could save $2,328,175 against the salary cap.
Can one of them move to safety?
Perhaps, but they’re not good options. One former NFL coach said he’d be concerned about Hall’s size and durability at a position he’s never played. Hall is smart enough, but he’d have to learn the game from a new perspective, plus learn run fits and how to play angles and be physical coming from the middle of the field. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds -- small for a safety. Amerson is too undisciplined, with his eyes in particular. Breeland has the skills to move there, and the previous defensive staff believed he could play safety. But if a guy is playing well at corner, you don’t move him. My guess is the Redskins will sign another player. They’ve expressed interest in Taylor Mays (not a quality starter), and when Dashon Goldson is released by the Buccaneers, general manager Scot McCloughan's ties to him suggest some level of interest. There’s also Stevie Brown, who played for Redskins secondary coach Perry Fewell in New York.
What about Culliver’s off-field issues?
They’re key. He has made comments that upset the gay community. He also was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run last year, and he faces both criminal charges and a civil suit. The alleged incident hardly paints him in a flattering light. What happens if he gets punished for the case? Will the NFL react? It’s something to watch. Has Culliver matured? Or will giving him good money lead to other problems? No way for me to know, and we’ll find out. It also matters how his contract is structured and what safeguards the Redskins have; they’ve done a nice job with contracts during the past two offseasons, so I’d imagine all of this was addressed. Also, McCloughan still has strong ties to the 49ers, so getting a good feel on a player from there wouldn’t be hard. Clearly, the 49ers won with Culliver. From what I understand, they wanted to re-sign him, but at a much lower price. But it's not as if they were saying they were done with him, either.