July 22, 2017

Do the Bengals Really Need a Safety?

Re-signing Reggie Nelson will give the Bengals more flexibility in the draft,

As free agency nears and the draft approaches, there is continued speculation about who the Bengals will acquire at guard, running back, cornerback, and safety. All those positions are considered to be significant needs. But is the last one really that significant? I’m not sure it is. Here’s why.

Most people expect the team to re-sign Reggie Nelson. The Bengals are expected to have the most salary cap room available and Nelson is perhaps the team’s No. 1 target. Thus, the deal should get done, giving the Bengals an above-average, although not breathtaking player at free safety. They also have Robert Sands behind him, who has great size (6-4), good athleticism, and should be familiar with the Bengals system in his second season.

(It should also be noted that Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer like their safeties to be rather hybrid types, so the lines between free safety and strong safety are blurred somewhat in coverage).

At strong safety, Chris Crocker will likely be relegated to a backup role if he’s kept at all, so the team will be looking for a replacement. Behind him is Taylor Mays, a second-round pick in 2010 that the team acquired from San Francisco. Mays also has tremendous size and athleticism (6-3, 230 pounds) and played rather well in limited action last season. He’s believed to have some limitations in coverage, but there are similar concerns about the top safety prospect in the draft, Mark Barron.

Therefore, the question must be asked. Do the Bengals really need a safety – especially if one of the top prospects available this season is similar to a player already on the roster?

My answer is yes and no. The team shouldn’t bother drafting a safety in the first round, but they need to acquire one somewhere for depth. Crocker and Gibril Wilson, who was a backup and a special teams staple last year, are in the final stages of their careers. The Bengals need another body, but it doesn’t have to be a big name. A second-tier safety in the draft (South Carolina’s Antonio Allen or Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith) or free agency would make more sense.

So forget going safety first.

It’s not an an overwhelming need.






    Agreed that no top pick needs to be used for a safety. Sands has excellent potential and needs an opportunity to grow into this defense. He can be the hard hitting ball hawk on the other side of the strong safety. The Bengals need to focus on top choices being OL and CB.

  2. I hope that re-signing Crocker is a high priority, but not the #1 priority. Keeping continuity on the D-line is a higher priority for me, which means bringing back at least two of FAs (Sims, Fanene & Rucker).

    You know I respect the heck out of your opinion, Nate, but I would not at all be opposed to taking Mark Barron in the first. (No other safeties grade as worthy of a first.) While they need to strengthen their pass defense, the biggest improvement on D will come from generating more turnovers. Barron could contribute to meeting both of those needs. So I view him as a solid pick in the first, if he is even available.

  3. I think it all depends on how the draft falls. If Richardson and both guards are gone at No. 17, I’d be okay with it. But I think I’d take a guard and a running back before safety.

    As always, it’s subject to change with free agency. If the team somehow loses Nelson, the position becomes a tremendous need.

  4. Juniversal says:

    I don’t think safety is high on list of draft priorities this year. Barron would offer good value in the 2nd round but if we don’t address RB in round 1 we should use our 2nd pick on RB. Since the safety class isn’t deep I see us either going FA and bringing in a safety or sticking with the guys we have and developing them.

    If they don’t pan out THEN I see safety being a high draft priority in 2013. I would say in terms of draft needs it’s low enough on the list that by the time we would go for a safety (likely 4th round or later) that the player we’d get would be no better then the guys we currently have.

    • Juniversal says:

      Scratch that. I should say we’ll likely go for a safety “3rd round or later” but I don’t see us grabbing a safety earlier then that.