After a few days of wondering where his agent had disappeared to, free agent cornerback Terence Newman was eventually able to re-sign with the Cincinnati Bengals on a two-year deal.
Newman started 15 games last season and was on the field for 958 snaps, second only to Leon Hall amongst the team’s cornerbacks. He made 75 tackles, missing just three all season, had one forced fumble and two interceptions. Newman was an excellent foil for rookie Dre Kirkpatrick to develop behind, although that wasn’t why he was initially signed.
Kirkpatrick missed most of last season due to various injury issues, managing just 43 snaps on the field with the defense all season long. As a first round pick out of Alabama, Kirkpatrick was expected to instantly make an impact for the Bengals. Even though he didn’t, the secondary unit was still one of the better groups of defensive backs in the league last year.
Newman’s re-signing follows the re-signing of Adam Jones, leaving just Nate Clements and Chris Crocker still on the open market from last year’s roster. With Jason Allen, Shaun Prater and Brandon Ghee still on the roster, the Bengals also have some talent and experience behind their main core group.
Historically teams have needed two good cornerbacks to get by. Today, most teams spend as much time in their nickel packages with five defensive backs on the field as they do in base formations. Unlike the quarterback position or at running back, having one quality starter at the position is worthless compared to quality depth stringing through the roster.
Kirkpatrick’s NFL outlook is still largely unclear, but his tape from his college days says that he could have some flexibility to play safety. Considering Nate Clements and Chris Crocker combined for over 1,200 snaps on defense last season, there is plenty of room for Kirkpatrick to contribute this season. The Bengals also can’t guarantee that Newman will return to the same form of 2012 because he is going to be 35 at the beginning of the upcoming season.
Should Newman drop off, then Kirkpatrick will be forced into the starting lineup. Should he return to starting form, he will still be expected to compete with Adam Jones to start outside in nickel packages.