Before we turn all of our thoughts toward free agency, the NFL Draft and the 2016 season. Breaking Burgundy will put a bow on the Washington Redskins NFC East-winning 2015 campaign, player report card style. Peter Hailey on the highlights, lowlights and what the immediate future holds for all members of the Burgundy and Gold though he took a more expanded look at...
Player: Chris Culliver
Contract status: Signed through 2018
Preseason buzz: The new guy would be the main cover guy
Ended 2015 as...: missed final six games following a season-ending knee injury suffered in practice.
How do you know when a player had a forgettable, underwhelming season?
When the best thing he did all year didn’t even count.
Unfortunately for Chris Culliver, that’s the reality of his 2015. The 27-year-old cornerback, who signed an expensive four-year contract last offseason, played in just six games for the Redskins because of injuries and a suspension, was routinely beaten during the times he was on the field, and saw one of the only truly positive things he did — a pick-6 against Carolina — get overturned because of a questionable penalty.
In other words, it was not the type of debut campaign he, Scot McCloughan, Jay Gruden, Joe Barry or anyone else expected out of him. That’s for sure.
The preseason buzz surrounding Culliver was that he was finally ready to be a No. 1 corner after leaving the 49ers, the franchise that drafted him in 2011. Those lofty expectations were reflected in the four-year, $32 million deal that McCloughan, a general manager who doesn’t often break the bank, gave him in March. But Culliver fell short across the board.
It’s true that he dealt with a bulky knee pretty much whenever he was able to suit up. And it’s true that it felt like he was being misused, being asked to lay off of receivers instead of aggressively jamming them at the line. Yet those things can’t hide the bottom line: No interceptions, no meaningful pass breakups, and no impact plays. At all.
[REPORT CARD - Running back Matt Jones]
Thanks to a fantastic draft class and other free agents stepping up, Culliver’s struggles went largely unnoticed. The guys that filled in for him did so admirably. But now that people have had time to review the roster, a huge question is developing: Should Washington even keep him?
It would seem unfathomable to ask this 11 months ago, but today, the topic is relevant. There’s a clause in Culliver’s contract, according to a report, that voids the rest of his guaranteed money since he was suspended for an incident that occurred in March 2014. Add that in to the fact that he’s recovering from his second significant knee injury, and the possibility of him being a one-and-done starts to increase.
It would be a risky thing to do, sure. The Burgundy and Gold have been thin in the secondary for a while, and 2016 would be no exception to that. And giving up on Culliver, someone that McCloughan went after almost immediately and someone who had almost everything go wrong for him in D.C., may be an overreaction.
Still, though, Culliver is far from safe. What was once a potential shut down defender now could have his time in the nation’s capital shut down after six disappointing contests. It’s up to him to keep rehabbing and figure out what parts of his game need refining. The rest, meanwhile, like that call in Carolina, is simply out of his hands.
Follow Peter Hailey on Twitter at @barelyin.
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