The Bengals Told Dax Hill Change Was Coming Prior to Free Agency, but Full Clarity Awaits in 2024

Cincinnati Bengals 2023 first-round pick Dax Hill doesn't know what his role will be in 2024, but he said he'll be ready for whatever it ends up being.

CINCINNATI – Last offseason when Jonah Williams requested a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals, a big part of his discontent centered on the fact the team never gave him a heads up it was going to ask him to switch positions.

The fact that it wasn’t planned to sign Orlando Brown Jr. and somewhat surprisingly came together didn’t matter to Williams.

But the fact that Williams was upset with the way it all went down seems to have resonated with the Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals DB Dax Hill Ready for ‘Whatever’ in 2024

Before signing free agent safeties Geno Stone and Vonn Bell last month, the team reached out to Dax Hill to let him know.

“They definitely did, and I appreciate that,” Hill said on Monday on the first day of the voluntary portion of the offseason program.

“Just having that conversation before things turned out and just hearing them out on why, Hill said. “Whatever happened, I can’t control that. I’m just gonna put my best foot forward.”

It’s been a trying first couple of seasons in Cincinnati for Hill, whom the team drafted in the first round in 2022.

His rookie year saw him playing multiple positions in OTAs and training camp as the Bengals dealt with the uncertainty of whether starter Jessie Bates III would sign the franchise tag or hold out.

Hill looked as though he belonged from the jump and made a few splash plays in the preseason. But when Bates eventually reported, Hill settled into a backup role that saw him play just 17 snaps at safety all season.

When Bates signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2023, it cleared a path for Hill to start at free safety. Again, there were some impressive plays, but there also were growing pains that never seemed to right themselves, eventually showing up in key spots late in the season.

What’s next for Hill is unclear, at least where he stands.

“I don’t know. It’s my first day back,” he said Monday.

Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said at the NFL Combine that Hill needs to be able to do one thing well, hinting at a structured role rather than the versatile, Swiss-Army-knife catchall that made him an intriguing prospect in the first place.

Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor said the team hasn’t finalized anything for Hill, but there is a working plan in place.

“We have a pretty good idea in our minds,” he said. “But we’ll let the offseason play out with that before we get into it here (in a news conference setting). But we feel comfortable with our communication with Dax and where that all stands.”

Hill is in no position to make a list of things he will or won’t do — or even wants to do or doesn’t want to do.

But even if he were, he said that wouldn’t be in his nature.

“Whatever they ask of me, whatever that is, I’m gonna do it,” he said. “Whatever the position that I’ll be in, I’m gonna give it my all.”

In addition to newcomers Bell and Stone, the Bengals also have Jordan Battle, the 2023 third-round pick who arguably was the best rookie performer the team had last season despite not moving into a starting role until Week 11.

That’s a logjam that will be tough for Hill to bust based on his past production, regardless of how much promise comes with it.

What feels like the most likely scenario is for Hill and former college teammate DJ Turner II to battle for the starting cornerback spot opposite Cam Taylor-Britt. Turner had a great training camp and took advantage of Chidobe Awuzie’s slow recovery from ACL surgery to log valuable game reps.

But it never felt as though Turner locked down the future of the position, and Anarumo’s borrowed line of “he didn’t hit the rookie wall; the rookie wall hit him” at the Combine is further indication a camp battle could be coming.

KEEP READING: Tee Higgins Reveals He’s Expecting Return to Bengals for 2024 — ‘I’m Looking Forward to It’

Hill took some time to reflect on his 2023 season when it ended.

“Because I knew I had to take the next step for this season,” he said. “You know, it’s always good to look at the things you did last year and figure some things out. I feel like that’s important to grow.

“My goal is to be the best version of myself. That’s what I try to put on day in and day out. Whatever guys call me to do, I’m going to do that. I’m not really worried about anything.”

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