Nickel Back Spot Still Up In the Air

As the Washington Redskins check lines off of their "to do" list this offseason, there are a few urgent bullet points that need to be addressed. One of those is a backup cornerback.

All reports are that there has been little movement towards acquiring a nickel back to replace the departed Walt Harris. As with the other remaining holes, there are three options—free agency, draft, reshuffle the players you have.

Here are's top remaining unrestricted free agent cornerbacks:

Charles Woodson
Ahmed Plummer
Eric Warfield
Ty Law
Dexter McCleon
Ray Mickens
Willie Williams
Jamar Fletcher
Michael Lehan
DeWayne Washington
Willie Middlebrooks

Woodson and Law are the kinds of players that the Redskins used to sign in free agency—aging and overpriced. They would come at silver dollar prices that do not fit the nickel back budget.

Among the others, the ones who might be the best fits are Plummer, who played last year with San Francisco, and Fletcher, a Charger in 2005. Both are former first-round picks, Plummer in 2000 by the 49ers and Fletcher in 2002 by Miami. Fletcher is younger and there was talk that the Redskins were interested in him, but there has been no visit and no serious contract discussions.

Perhaps the Redskins have drawn back from Fletcher because he doesn't have good run support capability. Gregg Williams likes to say, "Our cornerbacks hit," as in it's a job requirement, not an added bonus. According to scouting reports, Fletcher does not have the required resume when it comes to contact.

Plummer, on the other hand, does. However, he has managed to be on the field for only nine games in the last two seasons. That certainly is diminishing the interest of the Redskins and other teams around the NFL.

The team may choose to bypass the flawed and/or expensive free agents out there and look at picking up a nickel back in the draft. Among those who might still be available when the Redskins draft in the second round is Penn State's Alan Zemaitis.

He was a three-year starter with a big-time Big Ten program. According to's reports, he displays both the physical nature and the coverage skills needed to fit in the Redskins' defense. The report goes on to say that Zemaitis is "an instinctive ballplayer with solid physical skills, Zemaitis is a high-character prospect with great work habits." That last part goes well with what Joe Gibbs is trying to do with the Redskins.

The options to deal with the issue from within don't seem to be very attractive. Ade Jimoh has improved greatly in coverage since the days when the joke among Redskins observers was that his name must mean "burnt toast" in several languages. Still, the more he contributes on special teams and the less he's forced to play on defense the better.

Aric Williams, who was cut by the Eagles last year in training camp, was signed in January. He was a two-time All Pac 10 selection at Oregon State and he might get a shot at the nickel job. Among others who will be in the mix are Dimitri Patterson and Christian Morton, both of whom were on the practice squad and active roster at various points last season.

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