September 2, 2014

Focus On: Safeties

This position has been more patchwork than plan for too long. It is time the Bengals take a quality safety high in the draft or snatch a guy the way the 49ers swooped in and stole Donte Whitner a couple of years ago.

Reggie Nelson: signed through 2015
Reggie had another solid season and proved to be worth wooing back from leaping to the Jets. (Given the Jets season, I’m sure he feels he made the right decision.) He should be a staple of the backfield for a few more years.

Chris Crocker: unrestricted free agent
Left on the scrap heap after the 2011 season, Crocker was brought back when the position was a mess and had a productive season. He attributed that in large part to having fresh legs from not being in anyone’s training camp. If the Bengals give him another year, how hard will they work him in camp?

Nate Clements: unrestricted free agent
I don’t say this with disrespect because of his good 2011 season, but the party is over. The transition to safety didn’t work. We thank you sincerely and wish you well in whatever comes next.

Taylor Mays: signed through 2013
Potential unrealized. He may be a physical freak, but we are still waiting for it to translate to the field. Zimmer may like him, but time is running out. If he cannot show improvement in preseason games, it’s time to move on.

Jeromy Miles: restricted free agent
The special teams contributor continues to flirt with playing time. The team will likely bring him back. Will he ever break out and become more than just a teams guy?

Robert Sands: signed through 2014
Sands was making some noise in the preseason before a chest injury put him on IR for the season. A late-season arrest did not get him tossed from the roster, but it didn’t make his position any safer, either. If he picks up where he left off, he will be fine. But any slippage in his play or repercussions from his arrest could cause the ax to drop.

George Iloka: signed through 2015
He played in the first four games of the season, but his play was not impressive and his status slipped to the point where he spent the final six games deactivated. Not exactly a vote of confidence from the coaches. He may hang on to a spot next year, but he could find himself bounced if they keep Crocker and add a guy with a high draft pick.

Tony Dye: signed through 2014
For a college free agent, Dye wasn’t bad. I look for him to land on the practice squad when all is said and done.

Free Agent Wish List
Could they make a run at Dashon Goldson? The 49ers don’t have much cap space, and despite losing, just making it to New Orleans will drive up every free agent’s asking price. He would definitely bring the physicality demanded in the AFC North in the run game but is reported to be a liability in pass coverage. The Giants will have a hard time keeping Kenny Phillips if they choose to re-sign Martellus Bennett, though Phillips may draw enough outside interest to scare off the Bengals front office.

Draft Options
Three names stand out, and you probably know them all: Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam and Eric Reid. If Vaccaro slides to the Bengals at #21, I would be all for taking him. If they go elsewhere in the first round, Elam and Reid are currently ranked as a bit of a reach for the Bengals at #35, but that could change in the next 3 months depending on workouts and whose agent can create some buzz. (Personally, I’d rather get Giovani Bernard at #35, if possible.)