Though the Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and a good foundation has been built, they have a number of holes to fill on their roster. Both sides of the ball need some upgrades and it could be argued that more work has to be done on the defense--particularly with their own impending free agents. One position in sore need of assistance is safety.
Ever since the Marvin Lewis era began in 2003, the Bengals have been searching for a long term answer at safety. Much like at middle linebacker, the Bengals have been looking up at the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens as pillars of success at the back end of the secondary. The team has tried both stopgap and long-term solutions, but none have stuck to this point.
Enter Louis Delmas, a safety who has played for the Detroit Lions over the past four seasons. He entered the league as the No.33 overall pick in the 2009 draft and had some early success. But, as it has been with many Lions players over the past handful of years, decent stats haven't equated to many wins or unit-specific success. The Lions have struggled in pass defense recently, finishing 24th overall in 2012.
Part of the problem has to do with the cornerbacks on the Lions' roster. There aren't many playmakers on the outside for the defense, even though their front has had the ability to bring pressure. Some blame can also be laid at Delmas' feet because of his plethora of injuries. In the past two seasons, Delmas has missed 13 games and has never played a whole 16-game season (he played 15 each in 2009 and 2010). In 2012, Delmas had a ProFootballFocus overall score of -1.3, good for the bottom-third on the list of PFF-ranked safeties who are impending free agents this offseason.
Because of his injury history, it's likely that the Lions will be moving in another direction. It's a tough decision for them because they invested a high pick in Delmas and he was a very productive player in his first two seasons. The Bengals were said to potentially be interested in Delmas a few years back and his scouting report notes traits that have rang true at the NFL level:
Athletic build with the frame to carry additional mass. Active safety, unafraid to come up and support the run. Physical defender who flashes some explosiveness as a hitter. Reliable form tackler who attacks ballcarriers at their knees and wraps up securely. Good lateral agility to break down in space in the open field. Good instincts in coverage. Reads the quarterback and breaks on the ball. Smooth backpedal and appears to have at least adequate straight-line speed. Natural playmaker.
Delmas also ran an impressive 4.5 40-yard dash time at the Combine.
He will likely want a sizable contract, but it's doubtful that he'll get it because of his injury history. The Bengals have preferred to scour the free agent market for their safeties and Delmas could be a good addition if he is healthy. Even though he's battled injuries, Delmas is only 25 years old and could have plenty of good football in front of him if he can stay on the field.