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Bengals Have Freedom During The Draft But Safety Remains Biggest Need

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The Cincinnati Bengals signed a running back and linebacker this week, allowing the team to draft on a best player available philosophy instead of needs. Except for one position.

John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

With the Cincinnati Bengals and James Harrison reaching an agreement on Friday and Bernard Scott re-signing earlier this week, it shifts an interesting scenario for the 2013 NFL draft. Will either player change Cincinnati's draft perspective, now that certain moves during free agency have impacted needs? Probably at linebacker; less so at running back.

Either way the one position that Cincinnati hasn't addressed during free agency, a position that's expected to be the biggest need heading into the NFL draft, is safety. Peter Schrager with FoxSports.com applies safety during his latest mock draft.

The Bengals never draft safeties, but with Vaccaro still on the board at 21st overall, I can see them taking him. Vaccaro didn’t leave Indianapolis with the top-10 label that a lot of pundits expected, but he still had a great week back in February. He’s the type of defensive back NFL teams crave — capable of covering slot receivers, big No. 1s and tight ends. He can play free or strong safety at the next level and he’s like a missile when sent on a blitz. Mike Zimmer worked miracles with a mediocre secondary last season. 2012 first-rounder Dre Kirkpatrick’s rookie season was a bit of a bust due to injuries, but there’s hope that he can make an impact in his second year. Vaccaro would be a wonderful complement in the middle.

Prior to Harrison's agreement, linebacker was perceived as a significant need at SAM linebacker, where players like Aaron Maybin, Dontay Moch and Brandon Joiner were expected to compete for the position. Now that's settled, the team has options and the ability to apply their favored best player available philosophy.

Except for the first round, where safety is clearly a need.

During the predraft process in April, the Bengals hosted safeties Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid and Matt Elam while also conducting a private workout with FIU safety Jonathan Cyprien. It's a position that Cincinnati has publicly held the most interest, led by Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer running drills for Vaccaro at Texas' Pro Day.