CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 16: Nate Clements #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on October 16, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals won 27-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
After the NFL Draft with the influx of rookie talent, many teams find themselves with important positional battles. Recently, Sports Illustrated's Don Banks listed ten of the most intriguing player competitions heading into training camp in league, which includes battles between Cleveland quarterbacks, San Francisco wide receivers, and Miami running backs. But the most noticeable entry, from our perspective, is the cornerback battle in Cincinnati between and .
Clements was signed to fill a void at cornerback in Cincinnati prior to 2011, but the deal with the 32 year old was never meant to be a long term fix. Regardless Clements played at a high level and brought a certain amount of leadership to the locker room. Thecouldn't have asked for more - something Banks realizes as well.
Cincinnati got far more from Clements than it had the right to expect last year after losing Jonathan Joseph to Houston in free agency, and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer loves the veteran leadership factor he brings to the position. But with the drafting of Alabama's Kirkpatrick in the first round, Clements might be vulnerable to losing not only his starting left cornerback job, but also his roster spot as well.
The problem for Clements isn't really even about him. It's about his situation. The Bengals brought in free agents Terence Newman and Jason Allen, drafted rookies Shaun Prater and Dre Kirkpatrick, signed Derrius Brooks and also brought Adam Jones back. Include in that list of new acquisitions the names of incumbents Leon Hall, Clements, and Brandon Ghee, and the Bengals have nine cornerbacks. And nine is obviously far too many. Don Banks goes on to discuss these issues for Clements, as well as the issue with money that will surely affect the situation.
The reality is this: If Leon Hall has recovered from his Achilles' injury and is ready to resume his starting role at right corner -- still an iffy proposition at this point -- Clements might get squeezed out. Repeat, might. The Bengals signed veteran cornerbacks Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Jason Allen this offseason, and Kirkpatrick's arrival creates a solid six-man contingent. In that scenario, Clements' $5.5 million cap number could put him in jeopardy, although Cincinnati doesn't need the cap room and would be wise to keep Clements around until it knows for certain if Hall is fully recovered.
Banks points out that Hall is the key to many scenarios. If he's healthy, then Clements, unless he can reinvent himself as a safety, may be out of a job. If Hall isn't healthy, then Clements would be the best option at cornerback and should have nothing to worry about. And, as Banks says, every "if" involving Hall is a big "if".
Clements can put it all to rest (maybe) by outplaying Kirkpatrick and winning the starting corner job. It'll be intriguing to see how the cornerback battle in Cincinnati shapes out.