With the Bengals having questions of free agency, stalled by the looming Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Bengals may have to decide on what to do with safeties Roy Williams and Chinedum Ndukwe, both of whom will be free agents on March 4. Williams will be an unrestricted free agent while Ndukwe will be restricted.
With the injuries suffered by this unit, and expiring contracts, the Bengals have to rebuild and stock the position as much as possible. It is, as we'll call it this offseason, the team's biggest need.
The season started awful for our safeties. Gibril Wilson, signed by the Bengals on May 10, suffered a torn ACL against the Philadelphia Eagles, placed on season-ending IR several days later. Wilson will be a free agent. Roy Williams, who only played four games with the Bengals in 2009 due to injuries, missed four games this year with a knee injury and concussion. Chinedum Ndukwe suffered a major knee injury at Pittsburgh in mid-December, placed on Injured Reserve the following day. Both will be free agents. Tom Nelson, who spent the first five games on PUP after suffering a knee injury against the Jets in the regular season finale in 2009, had his season come to an end on December 14 after he was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football list. Nelson will be an Exclusive-Rights free agent.
Chris Crocker, a versatile defensive back that signed with the Bengals midway through the 2008 season, will turn 31 this offseason. His season came to an end when he suffered an MCL injury against the Buffalo Bills. In three seasons with the Bengals, Crocker has three interceptions and 3.5 quarterback sacks with the Bengals, playing 30 of a possible 40 games. Crocker is signed through 2012.
Reggie Nelson, traded for David Jones with Jacksonville, played every game in 2010, including six starts was the only Bengals safety to finish the season playing all 16 games. As the season went on, his contributions and production dramatically increased. He finished the year with 51 tackles, seven passes defensed, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also finished the season ranked fifth with six special teams tackles. Nelson is entering the final year under contract.
While Marvin White will be a free agent, Jeromy Miles and Rico Murray are signed through 2011.
There's little doubt that the Bengals biggest need this offseason is safety.