It's not everyday that a team has a cornerback duo like the Cincinnati Bengals do; Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall could start for any team. Luckily, they've both been starters for the Bengals since Hall was drafted in 2007. Since that time, the cornerback position wasn't something the Bengals necessarily had to be too concerned about, that is until now.
Joseph's contract ended after the 2010 season did and the Bengals failed to re-sign him, or use their franchise tag to keep him in Cincinnati, before the March 4 deadline, allowing Joseph to hit the free agent market. Of course, there really is no free agency right now due to the current lockout, but once the lockout ends and free agency opens, Joseph will not only get offers from the Bengals, but every team in need of a good cornerback. Marvin Lewis said that his first priority, once free agency begins again, is to re-sign players like Joseph and Benson, it's unclear, though, how much the Bengals will be willing to pay Joseph to return. The Bengals have never been known for throwing wads of cash around and I highly doubt that they could outmatch every team desperate for a good corner in the NFL. Because of that, it seems likely that Joseph has played his final game in Cincinnati.
Not all is lost, though. The Bengals still have the draft, and they still have Adam Jones.
The Bengals signed the troubled Adam "Pacman" Jones after being released from the Dallas Cowboys (and the Tennessee Titans before that) for discipline problems. Just to be clear, by discipline problems, I mean that Jones built a reputation as the NFL's premium bad boy. At one point, the Cowboys hired a personal bodyguard/baby sitter to make sure that Jones didn't get in trouble. Jones not only got in trouble, but he got in a fight with his own bodyguard.
So, of course the Bengals were interested in signing him.
While most sensible Bengals fans were irate when the Bengals signed yet another player with character concerns, Jones, who no longer wants to be called Pacman, has proven to most who were willing to give him a chance that he is a changed man. He went the entire 2010 season without an incident and seemed to keep to himself and live a normal, law abiding life. Unfortunately, he was only able to play in five games for the Bengals in 2010 before he injured his neck and was forced to sit out for the rest of the year, but in those five games, he made 11 tackles and intercepted a pass.
Jones was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2005 in the first round. In his career, he's made 132 tackles, intercepted five passes, one for a touchdown, and been fairly impressive as a return man. He's always had starter talent, but his behavior has always held him back.
Now that Joseph is probably long gone and Jones' behavior problems are behind him, is it possible that the Bengals already have their new starting cornerback?
Whenever free agency begins, Bengals CB Johnathan Joseph could find himself in demand, as he has played his position well in five NFL seasons. In the event Joseph is not back with the Bengals in 2011, the most logical heir to his starting spot, a daily team observer says, is Adam Jones, who was the club's No. 3 cornerback last season. Jones has not been a full-time NFL starter since 2006, when he started 15 games for Tennessee. Jones suffered a season-ending neck injury in October during his lone start of the 2010 campaign at Atlanta.
As long as Jones comes into the season in shape, there's no reason why he wouldn't be able to pick up where Joseph left off. He and Hall could be just as good as Hall and
Oats Joseph were. The Bengals wouldn't necessarily need to draft a new cornerback like Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara, which would, at least in 2011, save them some money.
Of course, if this is what they decide to do, they'd be in a tough spot once the 2011 season ends. Both Hall and Jones are slated to be free agents when the upcoming season is over. If either of them decide that they want the same kind of money that Joseph wanted, and Hall might, the Bengals may let him walk away as well. Drafting a cornerback now could help the Bengals plan for their future. The safety position is already weak enough, they don't need to weaken the rest of their secondary as well.
But, thinking just of the immediate future, Jones and Hall could not only be good enough, but really good. Both have the talent and physical tools to start for any team in the NFL. When it comes to the 2011 draft, the Bengals could stop worrying about the cornerback position and fill other holes in the roster, like quarterback, running back, wide receiver, safety and the defensive and offensive lines.
The biggest question is this: Are the Bengals a "let's deal with the problem now" team or are they a "let's deal with the problem when it gets here" team?