It seems as though we now have our two starting safeties for the 2012 season, Yeremiah Bell and Laron Landry. A few have questioned the lack of coverage with this unit, but going back to who was available. Outside of trading for a safety and having to either give up a hot commodity or a valuable high draft pick, there wasn't really anyone available on the open market.
I was a big fan of Thomas DeCoud for his coverage ability, however when Atlanta snapped him back up before we even had a chance, the coverage safeties in the league were few and far between. With how the league is developing into a passing league, teams who have those coverage safeties will not be wanting to let them hit the open market.
According to Pro Football Focus Tyvon Branch and Thomas DeCoud were the two best safeties entering free agency. Both re-signed with their current teams. Then came Reggie Nelson and Michael Griffin, both players remaining with their current teams from 2011. Then the 5th on the list was none other than Brodney Pool who never quite managed to impress enough to stay on the field as a starter with the Jets.
Then we have a look at the draft where elite safety talent was hard to come by. We have Mark Barron who is better playing the run than the pass and who was over-hyped due to a week class. You then have the fringe starters like Harrison Smith. Further and further back we get Guy Winston and Markelle Martin.
We chose to take Josh Bush, a decision I'm still not sure about. We also managed to grab Antonio Allen a player who is not ready to start but you could develop if given some time to really work on his coverage. he hasn't dropped back into coverage enough in college to feel comfortable in the NFL, however he does have the raw ability in terms of speed, instincts and ball skills to make you believe that he may turn into that starter.
So we have LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, a better combination than Eric Smith/Jim Leonhard/Brodney Pool trio. The bottom line for me is that there really were not many options to upgrade long term at the safety position and the good to elite coverage safeties weren't available. I do think that we have improved the position for the 2011 season, and I do think we will look to address the position long term next off-season. I know there is disappointment that we haven't found that elite coverage safety yet, but the draft in 2013 will be a chance to improve if the college season goes as planned, the players who should perform do, and then they declare.