Cincinnati Bengals Free Agency: Which Cornerbacks Could Be a Fit?

The Cincinnati Bengals are set with their three starting cornerbacks, but depth is a concern that could be addressed in free agency.

CINCINNATI — Cornerback is a position the Cincinnati Bengals have spent heavily on in recent years, both in terms of free agent dollars and draft capital.

But despite that attention, it remains one of the team’s biggest areas of need this offseason.

The Bengals did not draft a cornerback earlier than the sixth round in four consecutive drafts from 2017-2021. To buttress their thinning ranks, they signed Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton in the spring of 2021, beginning a renewed focus on the position that included using a second-round pick on Cam Taylor-Britt in 2022 and a second-rounder on DJ Turner II in 2023.

Free Agent Cornerbacks That Could Fit the Bengals

The three-year deal Awuzie signed expires next month. The Bengals are set with Taylor-Britt, Turner, and Hilton as starters in 2024, but depth is a big concern, with little-used Jalen Davis the backup to Hilton in the slot and 2023 seventh-round pick DJ Ivey — who played 21 defensive snaps before tearing his ACL — projected as the first outside corner off the bench.

Plus, Hilton’s contract is up at the end of the 2024 season, so the need is both short and longer-term.

It wouldn’t be unusual to see the Bengals go back to the cornerback pool with an early pick again this year. They recently took corners in the first round in 2012, 2014, and 2016.

But they have more pressing needs at tackle and on the defensive line, and they don’t have a tight end under contract, all of which could factor into when they choose to begin restocking the cornerback room.

Doing so in free agency often comes with a cost. The signings of Awuzie and Hilton were mid-level deals, but they still cost the Bengals $7.3 million per year for Awuzie and $6 million per year for Hilton.

Finding a corner in that price range but on a shorter one- or two-year deal makes more sense this year, given the upcoming spike in Joe Burrow’s yearly cap hit and the projected truckload they eventually will be giving Ja’Marr Chase.

MORE: Free Agent Edge Rushers the Bengals Could Target

So, who are some experienced cornerbacks the team could target without breaking the bank?

Let’s take a look at some possible fits.

Dane Jackson, Buffalo Bills

A full-time starter for Buffalo in 2022, Jackson started six games in 2023 and played 50% of the defensive snaps.

He was Pro Football Focus’ No. 33 graded corner last year (Taylor-Britt was 31st), and he doesn’t turn 28 until November.

Spotrac lists Jackson with a market value of one year, $3.1 million, which would make him an ideal fit financially and give the Bengals a backup corner with starting experience.

Rock Ya-Sin, Baltimore Ravens

A 2019 second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts, Ya-Sin has started 39 games in his five-year career. But he hasn’t started double-digit games since logging 13 in his rookie season.

He’s experienced by not expensive. He averaged 650 snaps in his first four seasons but only 279 last year, as the Ravens signed him to play a role similar to what the Bengals will be looking for in 2024. And Baltimore paid Ya-Sin just $4 million last year.

Arthur Maulet, Baltimore Ravens

If a slot corner is the direction the Bengals want to go in free agency, plucking a player off the 2023 AFC North champion roster could be the way to go.

Maulet is a little older. He’ll turn 31 in July.

But he knows the division not just from his season in Baltimore, but he also played two seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021-22.

Like Ya-Sin, Maulet joined the Ravens last year as a depth piece, signing an affordable one-year, $1.1 million deal. The Bengals could get him for something similar this spring.

Maulet had a career-high five passes defended last year despite playing just 43% of the defensive snaps.

Keisean Nixon, Green Bay Packers

Another slot option, Nixon earned his first starting role last year for the Green Bay Packers after starting only two games in three seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders and four games in Green Bay in 2022.

Nixon had a career-high six passes defended last year to go along with 80 tackles and two forced fumbles while playing on a one-year, $4 million deal.

Even if Hilton stays healthy all season and Nixon struggles to get on the field defensively, he still could add great value to the Bengals as he led the NFL in kick returns last year (26.1 yards per attempt) and was second in 2022 (28.8).

KEEP READING: Which 2023 Last-Place Team Has the Best Chance To Win a Division Title in 2024?

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