The Cincinnati Bengals have signed their seventh round pick from the 2016 NFL Draft, Clayton Fejedelem, to his rookie contract. Fejedelem is the second Bengals draft pick to officially sign with the team after Cody Core signed last week.
The Bengals selected the Illinois safety with the 245th overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft. Per Over The Cap, the total value of Fejedelem's rookie deal is $2,403,548, which averages out to $600,887 per year. As is the case with most seventh-round picks, Fejedelem is facing long odds in terms of spending all four years of that deal on the 53-man roster, but don't doubt his ability to do so.
The 6'1" safety has the height to play in the NFL, but he'll need to put on a lot of weight if he wants to make an impact down the road as he sits at around 190 pounds entering the summer. Before attending Illinois, Fejedelem played for NAIA school St. Xavier State.
During his time there, Fejedelem sent his highlight tapes to FBS schools around the country. That led to Alex Golesh, an Illinois assistant coach, promising Fejedelem that he could walk on if he could get accepted into Illinois. He was in 2014, and he became on of the Big Ten's best safeties his final year.
A former state champion wrestler and all-state high school football player, Fejedelem made a two-level jump in college and was still able to be an impact player for the Fighting Illini. He led his team in tackles this past season and made a critical a interception in the team's 14-13 upset victory over Nebraska.
Fej finished 2015 with 140 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and seven pass deflections. That came after his junior year in 2014 when he was a part-timer racking up 49 tackles and two pass deflections.
"Fejedelem has obvious deficiencies in coverage but he's a tackling machine who can bring the wood. He'll need to make his mark on special teams to come out of camp a member of the Bengals 53-man roster," NFL Network's Mark Dulgerian said.
For now, Fej is battling Floyd Raven, Shawn Williams and Derron Smith for the second starting safety spot next to George Iloka. Assuming either Williams or Smith wins said job, Fejedelem probably just has to beat out Raven for the final safety spot on the roster. Remember Taylor Mays is suspended for the first four games, so he won't count against the 53-man roster until Week 5 at the earliest. That means even if Fej makes the initial 53-man roster, he has to show enough for the team not to cut him if they want to put Mays on the 53-man roster.
The Bengals probably won't keep more than four safeties this year, especially with cornerback Josh Shaw being able to play safety. That's going to make it challenging for Fej to remain on the 53-man roster all year.