It was week 3 last season when the Redskins season was hanging in the balance. Having started 0-2 at home, the Skins traveled to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants. An 0-3 start would’ve killed the season and would’ve turned up the volume on the Kirk Cousins contract chatter. While Cousins played well in that game, the star of it was rookie Safety/Linebacker Su’a Cravens. With Eli Manning and the Giants driving towards what seemed like another inevitable game-winning touchdown, Cravens stepped in and picked off Eli’s last pass and the Skins knelt down twice to seal their first victory of the season.
Looking back now, I was so excited about the impact that Cravens could have on the rest of the secondary. While he was not capable enough yet to be a full-time safety, we finally had a thumper who could be a terror around the line of scrimmage or over the middle. Unfortunately for him and the Redskins, that never really materialized. His rookie season comprised of only 3 starts and 11 total games as the game-sealing interception became the lone highlight of his season. He missed the last 3+ games and the Redskins and their defense were unable to stop anyone on their way to missing the playoffs once again.
D.J. Swearinger was brought in this offseason as the Redskins hoped to combine him with Cravens to form their most formidable safety combination since anyone played with Sean Taylor 11 years ago. Swearinger would play centerfield and Cravens would be closer to the line, a combination the Redskins eagerly wished would stabilize their defense. Swearinger has held up his end of the deal, recently being named team captain while Cravens has been either hurt, uncommitted, or as was reported over the weekend, desiring to retire at the ripe old age of 22.
The timing of this news could not be any more disastrous for the Redskins. Cravens stated his intention to retire hours after final cuts had been made and teams had put in waiver claims for released players. I was hoping that the Redskins would go after T.J. Ward, recently released from the Broncos, to solidify their defensive backfield. That hope became anger when the Cravens news came out and Ward was signed by the Buccaneers. Even someone like the Jets Calvin Pryor, acquired by the Browns for peanuts, would’ve been an upgrade over the crap-fest that the Redskins plan to play next to Swearinger. What a crappy way to treat the team that drafted you and has helped you manage through your injuries and other issues in the time you’ve been here.
While those were my initial thoughts, the long weekend brought about more details about how this is not the first time that Cravens had those thoughts. In fact, the Redskins knew that Cravens had desired to retire going back to his days at USC and they still drafted him. Surely a team that knew that would have backup options better than DeAngelo Hall, (starting the season on PUP list) Deshazor Everett, and 4th round pick Montae Nicholson. A team should never expect its players to retire unexpectedly, but they should at least have a backup plan for someone who is as much of a flight risk as Cravens. For now, the team has given Cravens a month to think about his decision while starting the season with Everett alongside Swearinger for at least that long.
There is a lot of blame to go around for both the team and Cravens. He put the team in a really bad bind with the timing of his decision. The hope is that he gets his life straightened out (whether it is desire to play football or something more serious in his personal or family life) and return in October for the start of a stretch of games that will be important in the Redskins’ chase for the playoffs. The team has been pleasantly surprised with Everett’s progress and they anticipate that he will do just fine in Cravens’ absence. If Cravens chooses to retire permanently however, I would put the blame on the team more than I would on him. I’m not quite sure that’s fair, but the team will have wasted another second round pick on a player whose desire to play football was questioned extensively leading up to the draft. Here’s to Cravens finding peace in his life and returning as an impactful piece in the Redskins postseason chase this season and beyond. If not, the D.C. Sports Curse will have struck once again.