The Washington Redskins have traded Kevin Barnes to the Detroit Lions, according to Rich Campbell of the Washington Times (John Keim of the Washington Examiner and Mike Jones of the Washington Post have also reported the trade, but the 'Skins haven't confirmed).
The deal is an indication that the team has a lot of confidence in rookie seventh-round pick Richard Crawford, who has exceeded expectations this summer both in coverage and on special teams.
It might also mean that new defensive backs coach Raheem Morris didn't see a fit for Barnes, who struggled in the nickel role last year and had already been demoted following the arrival of veteran Cedric Griffin. But Griffin has not had a good preseason on the outside, and there's no guarantee that DeAngelo Hall will be successful in the slot.
When you consider that, as well as Griffin's injury history, the 'Skins would be taking a big risk here if they didn't believe Crawford could immediately contribute as a fourth corner and could step in as a nickel man upon request.
The 22-year-old SMU product has shined in practice and games. He had a big interception in the preseason opener against Buffalo and has averaged 14.0 yards on three returns. Indications are that he's versatile enough to play the slot or on the outside.
Only a year ago, the team had high hopes for Barnes. And there was a feeling that his poor play last year came as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite having ideal size, he wasn't a natural nickel.
In his defense, though, it wasn't all that bad in 2011. The 25-year-old former third-round pick actually had the ninth-lowest passer rating allowed in slot coverage last year, according to Pro Football Focus. And prior to last season, he was solid in limited opportunities on the outside in '09 and '10.
Considering the struggles we've seen from Griffin, Hall and even Josh Wilson at times this month, as well as the fact that Barnes possessed enough value to be traded rather than simply being cut, this development has further bolstered my belief that, by the time 2012 comes to an end, Richard Crawford will be one of the most important parts on this Washington defense.