It wasn’t that long ago we saw the Cincinnati Bengals make a flurry of moves to completely revamp their defense from historic lows. A huge reason for that was the team going out and landing Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, and Eli Apple for what amounts to a steal considering how well they’ve fit into the system.
Could the Bengals look to extend that this season by landing a player with a similar deal?
Ian Valentino from Pro Football Network included the Bengals among three teams as his predicted landing spots for Tampa Bay Buccaneers free agent cornerback Jamel Dean. Valentino sees Dean as an upgrade to the second cornerback position:
The Bengals were able to get the most they possibly could out of the Eli Apple experience, developing a defense that mitigated his weaknesses. But with Apple hitting free agency, the Bengals could replace him with Dean and pair him with Chidobe Awuzie. Like Dean, Awuzie is underrated in the public’s eye because neither forces turnovers at a high rate.
Ignoring the fact that Cam Taylor-Britt will likely be a starter at the beginning of the season, the signing does ultimately make sense, but maybe not entirely for the reasons Valentino makes.
This signing mirrors what Cincinnati has tried to do in free agency with cornerbacks for a few years now. They try to sign a free agent that is coming off his rookie contract (around 26 or 27) and have an experienced player who is a proven commodity but maybe doesn’t fetch the top dollar that other corners would be getting.
This signing would ultimately be insurance for Awuzie recovering from his injury. Dean would be able to start if necessary, and if he really plays well then the team has a good problem of having too many corners. That is a position you really can’t have too much depth at.
Awuzie is also entering the final year of his contract, so it could make that transition smoother as there are already probably going to be plenty of new names in that secondary starting Week 1 this season.
The question will come down to what kind of money Dean will be looking for. Cincinnati would probably be looking for a bit of a bargain since they technically aren’t as desperate as some teams who will be desperate for starting corners. If the two sides can agree on a deal, it would likely be a great fit.