The Bengals may want to target a safety early in this year's NFL Draft, but they may not need to if they can sign one in free agency.
They may have gone ahead and done just that, as reports are that they're nearing a deal with former Houston Texans safety Danieal Manning:
The #Bengals are finalizing a one-year deal with safety Danieal Manning, source said. Back with former #Texans DBs coach Vance Joseph— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 3, 2014
Manning was able to be signed by any team and not affect their compensatory picks for 2015. That made him an ideal candidate for the Bengals, especially since new Bengals DBs coach Vance Joseph coached Manning in Houston, so there could be the needed connection to get Manning in Cincinnati.
Manning was due to make $4.5 million this season, and had been previously asked to take a pay cut. He played the last three seasons in Houston after playing his first five seasons in Chicago.
Last year, he started the first six games of the season for the Texans but suffered a season-ending fractured fibula, and had a meager -2.3 grade by Pro Football Focus. This, after a -4.2 grade in 2012 in 1,186 snaps.
As of now, Reggie Nelson, Shawn Williams and George Iloka are the only safeties under contract for the 2014 season( we're not counting LB/S Taylor Mays), so Manning figures to get playing time in 2014.
It is just a one-year deal though, and depending on the amount of guaranteed money he'll get, he could end up competing for a roster spot if the Bengals draft a safety at any point in this year's draft.
This also all but guarantees Chris Crocker won't be back with the Bengals...until someone gets hurt and he's signed midway through the '14 season...again.
UPDATE: The team made the signing official on Thursday afternoon, via their official Twitter account.
NEWS: #Bengals have signed SS Danieal Manning pic.twitter.com/NpCruWy1Rw— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) April 3, 2014
(Anthony Cosenza contributed to this report.)