5 BEST SAFETIES STILL AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY

BY ADAM GREENE

We find ourselves again with a solid group of quality safeties available late in the free agency period simply because the position is so undervalued. While linebacker and running back might make sense, with the sheer quantity of quality players available every year, you can’t say the same about the safety position. It’s important and if you’ve got a lackluster back end on your defense, you’re in some real trouble against elite quarterbacks. Even if the QBs aren’t the best, the wide receivers and tight ends usually make up for it.

Still, regardless of how long it does take these guys to get signed, they will eventually end up on a squad. Here are the five best still available as I see it.

5. JEFF HEATH formerly of the Las Vegas Raiders

2020: 37 tackles, one for a loss, four passes defended, three interceptions

After the Las Vegas Raiders selected three safeties in April’s draft, they decided it was time to part ways with Heath, a former mainstay in the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive backfield. Heath started just five games for the Raiders last season, but played in 13. This comes after a three year, full time starting stint with the Cowboys after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2013 out of Saginaw Valley State.

Perfect fit: Washington Football Team

While the WFT could look at a complete rebuild, this was a division champion last season that would have won 10 games if Alex Smith had started the whole way. By signing Ryan Fitzpatrick, they obviously haven’t chucked the season just yet. They’re OK at starting safety, with Landon Collins and Kamren Curl, but have next to nothing behind them. Heath would be a solid reserve and more than ready to step in as a starter if called upon.

4. ANDREW SENDEJO formerly of the Cleveland Browns

2020: 67 tackles, one forced fumble, two passes defended

Andrew Sendejo was signed as a reserve by the Browns last season, but was called into service after presumptive starter, rookie Grant Delpit, tore his Achilles in August. Sendejo, who spent most of his career starting for the Minnesota Vikings, was more than up for the challenge delivering his best season since 2017.

Perfect fit: Carolina Panthers

Carolina didn’t add a safety in the draft, so they still have a hole at that position after cutting Tre Boston to free up salary cap space. Justin Burris is penciled to step in, but Sendejo would probably beat him out in camp. If nothing else, the vet would add important depth and push the sixth-year player to keep his career on an upward trajectory.

3. TRE BOSTON, formerly of the Carolina Panthers

2020: 95 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one sack, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, four passes defended, one interception

Speaking of Boston, thanks to the salary cap, he too finds himself working the controller to his PS5 over the spring. Boston has been a mercenary since the Panthers first cut him loose the first time back in 2016, playing a season with the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals before landing back in Charlotte. Last year was maybe his best as a pro, which makes it even weirder that the team cut him loose.

Perfect fit: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles need help all over, but didn’t pick up a safety until the sixth round of April’s draft (LSU’s JaCoby Stevens). Rodney McLeod has been a mainstay for the Eagles, but Boston would be an upgrade at that slot. He would most certainly add some depth of which Philly has very little with just five safeties total on the roster.

2. KENNY VACCARO formerly of the Tennessee Titans

2020: 83 tackles, six for a loss, one sack, one fumble recovery, five passes defended

After three solid seasons starting for the Titans, Vaccaro finds himself looking for another contract heading into his ninth season. Consistency is what Vaccaro offers, putting up nearly identical numbers over the last two Tennessee playoff seasons.

Perfect fit: Dallas Cowboys

Vaccaro is still in his prime, coming off back-to-back good seasons and the Cowboys, well, are not any of those things. They added former Falcons safety Damonta Kazee in free agency already, but he’s coming off an injury. Vaccaro would be a better option, and at worst would be ready to step in if Kazee has any lingering issues. Plus, it’s always smart to add savvy vets from playoff teams and after starting his career as a first round pick for the New Orleans Saints in 2013, Vaccaro has plenty of postseason experience.

1. MALIK HOOKER formerly of the Indianapolis Colts

2020: seven tackles

After his second major injury in four seasons, the Colts decided to let Hooker walk, albeit gingerly after suffering a torn Achilles, out the door after what looked like the beginning of a promising career. When Healthy, Hooker was an elite player at safety for Indy, recording seven interceptions over his first three seasons in the league. The injury bug has been constant as he has not started a full 16-game season since being drafted No. 15 overall out of Ohio State in 2017.

Perfect fit: Jacksonville Jaguars

This one makes too much sense. Urban Meyer coached Hooker in college and knows that he’s a first round talent that has played that way when he can stay on the field. They have no one of note slotted in at safety at the moment that Hooker wouldn’t immediately beat out. He should come at a discount and would be way more likely to make the team than Tim Tebow at tight end. Signing Hooker, off this injury for the kind of discount he’d take, would simply be stealing a first round pick out of thin air.

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