Kevin Barnes enters the final year of his contract hoping to create some staying power with his versatility. The Redskins’ third-round pick in 2009 has not emerged as a frontline cornerback to this point, so coaches are continuing this offseason to use him some at safety.
Barnes after practice on Thursday said he’s playing cornerback two-thirds of the time and safety the rest. It also appears coaches have decided not to repeat last season’s decision to use him as the top slot cornerback.
“Mostly now they’re keeping me on the outside, so I’m just using my size and dominating receivers,” said Barnes, who is listed at 6-1, 190. He said he has gained 10 pounds this offseason in order to hold up against the rigors of playing safety.
Barnes didn’t even play on defense in the Redskins’ Week 16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings last season. Coaches used the end of 2011 to evaluate pending free agent Byron Westbrook, who remains unsigned.
That, plus the fact Washington signed Josh Wilson last summer when they had Barnes already on the roster, indicates Barnes has a long way to go in this coaching staff’s eyes. He was, after all, drafted by the previous regime.
“Of course my pride was hurt a little bit because I wanted to play, I wanted to finish out with my teammates the last few games,” Barnes said Thursday of Westbrook’s late-season promotion. “But I understand they’ve got to evaluate being that our season didn’t go the way we wanted it to.”
The Redskins also signed six-year veteran cornerback Cedric Griffin from the Minnesota Vikings in March.
Barnes seems to have gotten the message.
“Offseason came, I didn’t take any breaks,” he said. “I started working out, getting my body together. I know there’s a lot of competition out here right now, so I’m just going to do what I do.”
During team drills on Thursday, that meant setting the left edge on a running play, which drew compliments from the coaching staff. Later, though, Barnes and Wilson trailed Santana Moss, who caught a touchdown from Robert Griffin III near the back left pylon.
For now, Barnes isn’t focusing on his contract. He has other things to worry about.
“It’s all about winning, man,” he said. “If we win, everybody is happy. If we don’t, they’ve got to make changes.”