According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe, who wasn't tendered a contract before the owner's lockout, will be an unrestricted free agent no matter which rules will be applied when the league year finally begins. Oral arguments will be made on June 3 to present the case for either lifting the lockout, or granting the full stay of the injunction. If the former happens, the league will still have to decide which league rules to apply. If it's the 2010 rules, then Ndukwe would technically be a restricted free agent. But as Reedy points out, the Bengals didn't offer the safety a contract before the lockout, which would make him an unrestricted free agent no matter which rules the league applies. But we wonder: If the lockout is lifted and the league decides to use the 2010 rules, would they allow themselves a brief period to tender contracts to potential restricted free agents before free agency, considering many teams may have hesitated tendering players heading into an unknown lockout.
For his part, Ndukwe is hopeful to return to Cincinnati.
“I’m going to be playing next year for sure. Hopefully it’s with Cincinnati but if it’s not I’m looking to win wherever it is.”
The Bengals will likely be players in free agency for multiple safeties. Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are likely going to be the team's starters with rookie Robert Sands drafted in the fifth round. Ndukwe, with six interceptions and 7.5 quarterback sacks in four seasons with the Bengals, is often rated as one of the secondary's best pass rushers and run defenders. Even if the team wasn't dealing with a shortage of safeties heading into free agency (whenever that happens), there's little reason to think that the Bengals wouldn't at least make a push to bring Ndukwe back.