Seeking safety help, Redskins turn back to Brandon Meriweather

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Needing some measure of stability in their defensive backfield, the Washington Redskins have reached an agreement with safety Brandon Meriweather on a one-year contract, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Meriweather started 13 games for the Redskins last season, missing two because of injury and a third because he was suspended by the league after a series of hard hits on defenseless players. The two-time Pro Bowler had 69 tackles and two interceptions and forced one fumble.

By bringing back the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Meriweather, the Redskins have added a player with significant starting experience. The other four safeties on the roster – Bacarri Rambo, Phillip Thomas, Jose Gumbs and Trenton Robinson – started a combined four games last season.

Meriweather, 30, offers versatility for Washington, which is still trying to acquire another experienced safety. After missing the season opener because of a strained groin muscle, Meriweather initially played well in the box as a strong safety, but spent much of the season playing in a single-high look as the Redskins rotated in three cornerbacks.

The concern, of course, is whether Meriweather can adjust the tackling style that has made him the subject of scrutiny by the league. The seven-year veteran’s pattern of high hits earned him a $42,000 fine from the league after a Week 2 road loss to the Green Bay Packers, and a pair of hits in the Redskins‘ Week 7 victory over the Chicago Bears led to a two-game suspension that was appealed down to one game.

If Meriweather can’t adjust – and he did a suitable job over the last half of the season – he will likely face an extended suspension from the league. He has been fined a total of $127,000 for illegal hits during his career, which included four seasons with the New England Patriots and one for the Chicago Bears before signing with Washington in 2012.

His ability to stay on the field is also in question because of his injury history, which includes a strained MCL in his left knee that kept him out the first half of the 2012 season and a torn ACL in his right knee that sidelined him for the second half of that season.

The Redskins would ideally like to pair Meriweather with Ryan Clark, who spent the last eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers after two in Washington. According to someone familiar with Clark’s situation, the Redskins and Clark’s agent, Joel Turner, have remained in negotiations for the better part of the past week, though the two sides are not close and an agreement is not imminent.

Clark, 35, could fit in as the Redskins‘ starting free safety, allowing Meriweather to move back inside to strong safety.

Meriweather’s agreement was first reported by ESPN and NBC Washington.

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