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Redskins get rolling by adding some potential defensive starters

- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2014

After failing to address their biggest defensive needs since the free agent signing period began on Tuesday, the Redskins agreed to terms on Thursday with three players who could become starters and signed a fourth who will add depth on the defensive line.

Cornerback Tracy Porter, defensive end Jason Hatcher and inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton all approved contracts with the Redskins that they will likely sign on Friday, while the team also announced it has signed defensive end Clifton Geathers.

Of the three players to commit to the Redskins on Thursday, Porter fills the team's biggest need. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound cornerback will likely start opposite DeAngelo Hall and take on the responsibility of covering a slot receiver when the circumstances dictate, allowing David Amerson, who was drafted in the second round last April, an opportunity to continue to develop in his second year.

Porter started all 16 games for the Raiders last season, marking the first time in his six-year career he's played in every game. A second-round pick out of Indiana in 2008, Porter played in only six games with the Denver Broncos in 2012 as he recovered from the effects of a seizure he had during training camp.

He was perhaps best known for a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minutes of Super Bowl XLIV, ensuring the New Orleans Saints would defeat the Indianapolis Colts for their first championship.

Hatcher, who will turn 32 in July, agreed to a contract with the Redskins on Thursday evening, his agent, Jordan Woy, wrote on Twitter without disclosing terms. Hatcher spent his first eight years with the Dallas Cowboys and is coming off what was perhaps his best season in 2013, when he had 11 sacks as the starting right defensive tackle in the first year of Dallas' 4-3 scheme.

It seems likely that Hatcher would move back to defensive end in the Redskins' 3-4 defensive alignment, especially considering the uncertainty regarding the health of Stephen Bowen, who underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in December and may not be ready for the start of training camp.

Sharpton, who could start as an inside linebacker, agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract, according to a person familiar with the deal. A fourth-round pick by the Houston Texans in 2010 out of Miami, the 5-foot-11, 236-pound Sharpton has struggled to stay healthy, missing half of the 2011 season because of a torn right quadriceps and then the first nine games of the 2012 season with an unspecified hip injury.

When he has been healthy, he's been productive. Sharpton filled in for the injured Brian Cushing as the Texans' middle linebacker for the final eight games last season and had 87 tackles and forced one fumble. He will compete with Adam Hayward, who signed Wednesday, and Keenan Robinson for the starting jack linebacker role likely to be vacated by Perry Riley, who is expected to shift to mike linebacker following London Fletcher's retirement.

Geathers, the nephew of former Redskins defensive lineman Jumpy Geathers, will be joining his sixth team in five seasons. A sixth-round pick out of South Carolina in 2010, the 6-foot-8, 340-pound Geathers played in all 16 games for the Philadelphia Eagles last season.

Two other players who visited Redskins Park on Thursday – former Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Ryan Clark and former Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer – had not agreed to a deal by late evening.

Clark, who spent the last eight seasons with the Steelers, played for the Redskins in 2004 and 2005. According to a person familiar with the situation, conversations between the two parties continued after Clark's departure.

"Business, business, business," the 34-year-old Clark wrote on Twitter shortly after 2:30 p.m. "Sometimes it's just the business! Patience is a necessity!"

Later, after other users questioned if Clark was merely wrangling for more money, he wrote, "People are so funny! Had a great visit with the [Redskins] today. Some things just take time."

Clark would fill a major need for the Redskins that has otherwise gone unaddressed during the first three days of the free agent signing period. The team only has four other safeties on the roster – Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas, each of whom are entering their second year, as well as Jose Gumbs and Trenton Robinson – and is sorely in need of a starter.

Spencer, 30, played in only one game last season and is also recovering from microfracture surgery on his right knee. A Pro Bowl selection following the 2012 season, Spencer remains similarly uncertain for the start of training camp.

The Redskins will reportedly host a pair of former Seattle Seahawks cornerbacks on Friday, as Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond are scheduled for visits. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound Browner played in only eight games last season because of a league suspension and will miss the first four games of the coming season as well. Thurmond was also suspended for the Seahawks' final four games in 2013, but returned for the team's Super Bowl run.

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