It's that time of year, so you knew that it was coming.
The Cincinnati Bengals announced on Wednesday that they've signed defensive back Chris Crocker, while terminating the contract of Dennis Roland to make room.
Crocker, who worked out with the Bengals on Tuesday, returned last year on Sept. 27, after missing the first three games as an unsigned free agent. He played three days after signing a one-year deal and posted the first interception for a Bengals defense that recorded none at that point. Crocker wound up playing 13 games, starting nine, and finished the season tied for the team lead in interceptions (3) while recording 42 tackles, a fumble recovery and three passes defensed.
This will mark Crocker's sixth season with the Bengals after posting seven quarterback sacks, six interceptions, 24 passes defensed and 230 tackles in 59 games played and 53 starts.
Second-year safety George Iloka recently praised Crocker for his study habits, helping him grow from his rookie year to this season, where he's started every game and played all but one defensive snap.
"I’ll be the first to admit that last year I didn’t grasp this defense as well as I needed to in order to contribute," said Iloka. "I didn’t realize that until I saw Crocker. You can’t just rely purely on your athletic ability as this level – especially at the safety position in this defense. You have to know the checks, and you have to be consistent because you’re not just playing for yourself out there.
"What really made me gravitate towards him was the fact that he got an interception in his first game back. He was basically on the couch and didn’t go to training camp or anything. It’s not like he did anything spectacular – he just did his job. He made the right reads and did the things that Coach Zimmer taught him and the pick came right to him. I said, ‘I’d better start watching this dude and picking his brain in order to learn as much as I can.’"
Cincinnati's defensive backs situation is precarious right now. Brandon Ghee has been undergoing concussion protocols for a month and hasn't played yet this season (he can't be released until he's cleared or there's an injury settlement). Dre Kirkpatrick sat with a hamstring against the Green Bay Packers. Leon Hall suffered a pulled hamstring on Sunday during a block on Terence Newman's fumble return for a touchdown. His status is "partly cloudy", according to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis though Hall intends to play. Adam Jones has been dealing with an abdominal, but played all but one defensive snap against the Packers Sunday.
At this point, Newman, the recently signed Curtis Marsh and promoted Chris Lewis-Harris are the only healthy cornerbacks.