The rumors of the Bengals signing Stephon Gilmore are just that—rumors.
The reality is, the team is unlikely to spend on another big free agent, especially not one who is 31 years old.
Yes, the team likes to draft corners, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they took one early in this year’s NFL Draft. But the Bengals, coming off a Super Bowl appearance, may also be looking to shore up the position with another veteran who can help a rookie transition into the NFL as the team continues to hum along in win-now mode.
So who are some of the veterans remaining in free agency? Let’s take a look at some of Joe Goodberry’s top remaining free agents.
1. Joe Haden
The former Cleveland Brown and Pittsburgh Steeler may have a thing for vengeance and staying in the AFC North. In that case, he’d be a perfect fit for Cincinnati. Goodberry predicts him to make about $5 million a year on his next contract, which would be reasonable for the Bengals.
Yes, Haden is almost 33 years old. But he’s an experienced veteran who has learned to rely on his smarts as opposed to athleticism in recent years. As recently as 2019, he had a career best five interceptions to go along with 11 pass breakups.
Haden earned overall and coverage grades above 60 from Pro Football Focus in each of his five seasons as a Steeler. He may not be a shutdown corner, but he’s still a good tackler who would add valuable depth and leadership.
2. Patrick Peterson
Another aging veteran with something left in the tank, the former Arizona Cardinal and Minnesota Viking earned an overall grade of 63.0 from PFF and is projected to earn about $6 million a year on his next contract. At one point, Peterson was considered one of the very best corners in the game, but his athleticism quickly declined, and the Cardinals decided to move on. He had a bit of a renaissance last year and would provide the kind of stability the Bengals are looking for.
Patrick Peterson forced two key pass breakups on third down on Sunday. He's been worth every penny in coverage this season: pic.twitter.com/hoEkNOJifJ— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) October 12, 2021
3. Chris Harris Jr.
Yep, you guessed it. Another formerly-elite corner who is now in his early to mid 30s, earned a PFF grade in the 60s, and is projected to make about $5 million a year. The only difference is that Harris is best suited to play in the slot. At one point, he was arguably the best slot corner in the game, earning a PFF grade of 94.8 from 2011 to 2018. Then his grades dropped after he moved to the outside his final year with the Denver Broncos and his first year with the Los Angeles Chargers.
4. Xavier Rhodes
You got me. Rhodes fits the same profile, only he’s projected to make a little less, about $3 million a year. In 2020, he tied for the eighth-best grade for a corner (77.3), according to PFF. He wasn’t nearly as good in 2021, earning a grade of 61.8. On the Minnesota Vikings, he was initially outstanding, making three Pro Bowls and being named an All-Pro twice. But his play rapidly declined, and he was picked up the Indianapolis Colts. He had a brief renaissance in 2020 then struggled with a calf injury early in 2021 and then a hamstring injury late in the season, missing four games as a result. It’s a bit hard to tell if he can get back to his 2020 form considering his age.
5. Kyle Fuller
He is a bit younger, only 30 years old, and doesn’t have the same name recognition as the other candidates. Fuller had a terrible 2021, earning a PFF grade of 47.2. This only one year after getting a $9.5 million deal from the Denver Broncos. However, he is a former first round pick and All-Pro (back in 2018 with the Chicago Bears). Lou Anarumo and company may feel he is worthy of being their next reclamation project, à la Eli Apple.
For more one what moves the Bengals might still make in free agency, watch the video below:
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