Though the Bengals have been criticized as being one of the more unstable franchises in the NFL, one could argue that the Oakland Raiders are a team that have been in more constant turmoil over the past decade. The Raiders recently hired new General Manager Reggie McKenzie, and he's been in housecleaning mode since his arrival. McKenzie has let go of nearly the entire coaching staff and now has made his first major personnel move.
Today, the Raiders terminated the pricey contract for cornerback Stanford Routt, making him available on the open free agent market. Routt was given this lucrative contract just last offseason, as Al Davis chose to give his money to him instead of Nnamdi Asmougha. Though Routt had a solid 2010 campaign and beginning of 2011, his game really took a nosedive towards the end of last season.As the No. 2 cornerback for the Raiders, Routt has had a fine NFL career--it was his lone season as the main man that he failed to lived up to expectations.
That leaves the Raiders without a true No. 1 cornerback on the roster and in rough shape. Their quality safety, Tyvon Branch, is also slated as a free agent and they may not be able to retain him. They traded their first round pick to the Bengals for quarterback Carson Palmer, so they won't be able to draft one of the top prospects at either position.
The Bengals, however, will be in the market for a cornerback or two this offseason, be it in free agency or the draft.
Routt could be a direction that the team looks to get some veteran depth at the position. In the last year, the team has lost four of their cornerbacks in one form or another. Johnathan Joseph left the team via free agency, Leon Hall didn't finish the season due to an Achilles injury, Morgan Trent was released and Adam Jones is set to become a free agent. The only cornerbacks of note that the Bengals have on the roster that they can count on are Nate Clements, and Brandon Ghee.
Granted, Leon Hall could be back by the end of Training Camp next season since his rehab is apparently going well. But, can the team really count on him to be back by Week One and playing at the near-Pro Bowl level that they've been accustomed to over the last four or five seasons? It wouldn't be wise to put all of their eggs in that basket right now.
With the addition of Routt, the free agent cornerback pool is deep this year. The Bengals should look at a solid veteran corner who has a few years left in the tank, as well as drafting a young guy in the first couple of rounds. Cornerbacks usually struggle in their first years, but hit their stride after that. Drafting a player and having him mentored by veterans is a smart strategy and I wouldn't be surprised to see them route (pardon the pun).
The Bengals will have a lot of salary cap room to make significant free agent moves this offseason. One of those moves could be for a corner and Routt could fit the bill--if the price is right.