It is no secret that the Bengals love free agents they are familiar with. Whether it’s re-signing their own players or bringing back familiar faces, the Bengals tend to sign players who have some connection to the team. Now that Teryl Austin has taken over as defensive coordinator, it opens up a whole new pipeline to the Lions defensive players for the Bengals to consider. Obviously we shouldn’t expect the Bengals to go after all of these guys, but don’t be surprised if a couple end up on the Bengals’ roster next season or at least are considered in free agency.
Haloti Ngata, Defensive tackle: The odds of this one were extremely low even before the Bengals signed Chris Baker. Still, Ngata next to Geno Atkins would be a nightmare for any opposing offense, not to mention all the one-on-one matchups that would create for players like Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson. Ngata would also be given the chance to seek revenge on the Ravens twice a year after the team traded him to the Lions. He spent most of last season on Injured/Reserve, and he is well into his 30s. Still, it is likely he will get a contract that is too rich for what the Bengals would be willing to invest in an aging player.
DJ Hayden, Cornerback: Hayden has failed to really live up to expectations since being picked 12th overall by the Raiders in 2013. Last year was really no different as Pro Football Focus ranked him the 96th corner overall. The Bengals aren’t looking for a starting corner though, and the price could be right to bring Hayden in. He could be the depth at corner that the Bengals will likely seek at some point during this offseason, and he has familiarity with what Austin expects out of his players. If the Bengals re-sign Adam Jones, consider this off-the-table.
Tahir Whitehead, Linebacker: Whithead is coming off a career season under Austin’s guidance. Last year he moved back to outside linebacker, and he improved across the board. He was better against the run, pass and was a better tackler. He may have pushed himself out of the Bengals’ price range, but there is no denying the need at the position and connection to the team.
Paul Worrilow, Linebacker: He isn’t a very interesting option, but he could very well be an after-the-draft acquisition. Worrilow had a promising start to his career with the Falcons before he was signed by the Lions last year. An injury put him behind the eight ball early in the season, so he didn’t get much playing time. Austin may want to see if Worrilow is willing to give it another shot in Cincinnati with a team that is desperate for an inside linebacker.
Tavon Wilson, Safety: It is no secret the Bengals are looking for safety depth this offseason. They already tried to land Kurt Coleman not too long ago. If the Bengals are looking for an affordable veteran option to backup George Iloka and Shawn Williams, then Wilson may be one of the better options. He had shoulder surgery after the Lions lost on Thanksgiving. This ended his season, and he wasn’t exactly having an outstanding one prior to that. Still, if the name of the game for the Bengals is finding a guy who is ready to go out there and doesn’t need time to develop, then Wilson fits the bill. Plus, he can help along any younger players learning Austin’s system.