CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01: Adam Jones #24 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Nate Clements' name has come up all too often in discussions about which cornerback will not make the roster in 2012. Skeptics point to his age. With Dre Kirkpatrick in waiting, there just isn't any room for Nate. We push him out the door just as quickly as we welcomed him in.
But most of this judgment is coming from an outside perspective, analysts, etc. It's not an unfair assessment. The team has nine cornerbacks on roster right now, and Clements is due $4.3 million in 2012. More than anything, Clements is old--32 years of age. With a brief glance at the scenario, Clements is the odd man out and it's a no-brainer.
That is how analysts feel. Do Bengal fans feel the same way?
Clements filled in for the Bengals after the departure of Jonathan Joseph when the team needed him most, and he played valiantly. He assumed the No. 1 role when Leon Hall went down. He played a major role on the defense. And when the Bengals clinched the playoffs, the first playoff berth of Clements' career, he cried.
Why is this the man so easily assumed to be out the door? Has he not shown his heart is in the right place? Has he not proved enough to the organization?
Instead of Clements getting the ax, perhaps Adam Jones is the better choice. Brian McIntyre of NFL.com agrees. In discussing the Cincinnati cornerback situation, McIntyre terms Jones as the likely "camp casualty".
How many current and former first-round cornerbacks can one team have at the same time? With 2007 first-round pick Leon Hall coming off a torn Achilles, the Bengals beefed up their cornerback position in free agency with former first-round cornerbacks Terence Newman (2003) and Jason Allen (2006). Then Cincinnati used the first of its two first-round picks, the one obtained from the Oakland Raiders in the Carson Palmer trade, on Dre Kirkpatrick.
With 2001 first-round pick Nate Clements coming off a fairly strong season, 2005 first-round pick Adam Jones could have a hard time staying on the Bengals. Jones was re-signed to a one-year deal in March, but only his $75,000 signing bonus is guaranteed.
On paper, Jones holds two advantages over Clements: He is four years younger, and not much will be saved from his release as he is on contract for only $700,000. The latter point is the most important. Clements is potentially on the hook for significantly more than Jones--over $4 million. Mike Brown is a money grubber, but with all the available cap room for the Bengals franchise, is $3+ million worth the talent dropoff?
Adam Jones spoke at the Rookie Symposium recently and warned incoming players to avoid the same mistakes he made. He's working to revitalize his reputation. He seems as though he is a changed man. What this possibly could amount to is Jones finally realizing the potential the Tennessee Titans saw in him when they drafted him 6th overall in 2005. But that's a long shot. 2005 was seven years ago.
With Clements, you get so much more. Experienced talent, veteran leadership, and someone who's proven he can step in when the team needs him. Instead of pushing Clements out the door, fans should be eagerly looking where to fit him into the 2012 defense. Keep Nate. Lose PacMan.