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Pro Football Focus Ranks Top Defensive Backs Entering Free Agency

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There's talk that the Cincinnati Bengals need to improve their secondary. Alright so we trivialized that statement slightly. Let's try this again. THE BENGALS NEED HELP IN THE SECONDARY. It appears that there's more than just a "good chance" that Cincinnati could select a cornerback with one of their two first round selections. But there's also a good chance that the team could explore free agency, benefited by having roughly $60 million to spend under the cap.

Pro Football Focus ranks the best free agent cornerbacks and safeties, largely (but not totally) applying their grades as a ranking system for both positions. They listed Cincinnati's free agent Reggie Nelson as the third-best safety entering free agency.

After some disappointing years in Jacksonville, Nelson picked his play up in Cincinnati, evening out as an average safety. In the majority of his games, he allowed either no catches or a very short catch, but found room to give up a few big plays. He started the season strong with 12 stops in the first four games, but finished with just 13 in the last 13 games. He has shown signs of being a worthy safety (and signs of falling apart). May be worth the risk.

Other top free agent safeties they list includes Oakland's Tyvon Branch, Atlanta's Thomas DeCoud, Tennessee's Michael Griffin, New York's Brodney Pool, San Francisco's Dashon Goldson, Washington's David Boston LaRon Landry, Jacksonville's Dwight Lowery, New York's Jim Leonard and Chicago's Craig Stelz.

It seems likely that Cincinnati will address safety more through free agency while looking at cornerback through the NFL Draft. That being said the team will still need to build the overall cornerback depth, likely dipping into free agency. The top three cornerbacks heading into free agency includes Atlanta's Brent Grimes, writing:

In truth, Brent Grimes is never likely to hit the open market, with the Falcons seemingly ever more certain to Franchise him rather than risk his escape. Atlanta has put themselves in the awkward position of seeing three key members of their defense hit free agency in the same year, but it looks as if they are likely to tag Grimes and risk losing the others. As good as Grimes is, and he may very well be the best cover corner in the league after Revis, he will be 29 by the time the season rolls around and teams would be reluctant to offer a big contract in terms of both dollars and years to a player of that age.

Baltimore's Lardarius Webb:

Lardarius Webb tore his ACL at the end of his rookie season in 2009, and, though he was back in the lineup to begin the 2010 season, it was only in 2011 that we really saw the play he was capable of. Webb had our second-highest coverage grade of the season last year (beating Grimes by 0.1), intercepting five passes and getting his hands in to break up another 11. Opposing quarterbacks had a rating of just 55.6 when throwing at his coverage, and at 26 he is only entering his prime. This is why he makes this list, despite being a restricted free agent, because the upside is good enough that some teams might take a run at him and try and pry him from the Ravens’ grasp, even at the cost of a first round pick.

And Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan.

Finnegan brings a rare brand of physicality and versatility to the free agent market. Last season the Titans had him covering the slot in nickel packages so that he could get more involved in the plays and be around the football more. He excelled in that role and is at his best when he can get physical with receivers. He can play both man and zone, and work from the slot as well as out wide, so he will be attractive to almost all teams, regardless of scheme. At 28 when the season rolls around, he’s still in his prime and should be one of the most hotly-chased corners.