CINCINNATI — Now that the Cincinnati Bengals are three weeks into free agency, they have a more accurate picture of how the roster will look heading into the 2017 draft. We’re taking a look at each position, how it changed in free agency and where it stands now.
State of the position: Adam Jones is here to stay.
The Bengals made that clear after owner Mike Brown voiced his support for Jones this week, months after Jones was arrested in downtown Cincinnati in January. Jones, 33, clearly is not going anywhere in 2017.
So where does that leave 2016 first-round pick William Jackson III or recently signed free agent Bene Benwikere?
The Bengals have said they see Benwikere as a nickel corner. If he starts there, with Jones and Kirkpatrick as the outside cornerbacks, that won’t leave many snaps for Jackson, a cornerback the Bengals have said they think very highly of even though an injury derailed his rookie season.
Of course, the cornerback competition could be a free-for-all at camp, but with Kirkpatrick recently signing a new contract, and Jones entrenched as the other starter, it seems unlikely that any new corner would topple their position. The nickel position seems the only one up for grabs.
The Bengals don’t lack for depth at this position. Should something happen to either Kirkpatrick or Jones, then Benwikere, Shaw and Dennard all have experience. That means it’s likely not going to be a highly targeted position in the draft.
While there are options, it seems Cincinnati is set to go with its two returning outside starters. Jones will be 34 when the season begins, an age that is rare for starting cornerbacks to be able to produce at a high level. If he maintains his position, the Bengals will have to bank on him holding his form for another year.
Unless Jones is suspended by the NFL for his arrest, his presence could signal more waiting time for Jackson.
As for the safeties, this should be one of the positions with the least turnover. Shawn Williams and George Iloka will return as the Bengals’ two starters. While Cincinnati might pick up another safety in the draft with only four on the roster, there won’t be too many charges here at the starting spots.