As we continue to look at Cincinnati Bengals free agency targets from 2017 playoff teams, a look at who could be worth targeting from the Minnesota Vikings.
The Cincinnati Bengals fell short of the playoffs this past season, not qualifying as one of the six teams from the AFC. However, that’s not a trend that Marvin Lewis and company intend to keep up. As such, it’s time to look at how they can build this offseason, specifically in 2018 free agency. And a great place to look is at the playoff teams from this past season and who will be available.
We’ve already covered a player on each of the following teams: the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now, we look at one from the Minnesota Vikings.
Terence Newman, CB
Cincinnati’s cornerbacks came into 2017 feeling like a strength. Dre Kirkpatrick had just signed a massive five-year, $52 million contract to stick around and be a No. 1 corner. Adam Jones was returning as the solid veteran presence. Josh Shaw was a good nickelback/slot safety hybrid. William Jackson III and Darqueze Dennard hadn’t shown much yet, but it was too soon in their young careers to write either off.
Turns out, little of what was expected would come to pass. Kirkpatrick quickly proved himself to be laughably overmatched, with a highlight-producing stiff-arm he took from Le’Veon Bell being the suitable emblem for his season. Jones started the year with a suspension, then proceeded to flail away fruitlessly in easily the worst season of his career. Shaw went from an underrated surprise in 2016 to a terrible performer in 2017.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. Jackson III showed himself to be a possible star, shutting down opposing receivers with aplomb. Dennard finally touched on his first round talents, leading the group in snaps while being solid in coverage and against the run. The good play of those two is a building block for the future, but past them is only desolation and abysmal play. For the unit to improve, they must do something about the players who were supposed to lead their unit in 2017.
That won’t be easy. Kirkpatrick has four years remaining on that contract, and cutting him now would leave $5.6 million of dead money on Cincinnati’s cap — an amount owner Mike Brown certainly doesn’t want to pay to a player who wouldn’t be on the roster any longer. Jones has plenty of off-field issues to consider even when he’s playing well, but he’s earned plenty of trust from his coaches and owner over the years.
Calling for them to cut ties even with an undeniable drop in his abilities is easy to desire, but not something that should be expected to actually come to pass. Shaw may not be able to handle the expanded role 2017 saw him have, but can he return to being decent in a smaller role?
Those last two parts can be somewhat addressed with one player: Terence Newman. He’s a former Bengal, spending three seasons here from 2012-14; for a team hell-bent on continuity and reluctant to spent on players they haven’t already invested time in, he would appear to be an obvious target. Despite his age, he’s still able to be productive in the right role. He’s long been unable to handle outside corner duties full-time (speed goes with age, and he’s gonna be 40 this coming season), but as a slot guy he still has high-level ability.
Newman can take over the responsibilities and roles held by both Jones and Shaw. He can be the tough, veteran presence that Jones has been, but do so while being more productive and having none of the off-field baggage that Jones carries with him. Being mainly a slot corner now, Newman would take a lot off of Shaw’s overburdened plate, allowing the young player to have a chance to become a useful contributor again in a smaller role.
The Bengals will have to convince Newman to leave a Minnesota team which has championship aspirations for a current non-playoff team first, however. That too is difficult to expect, but it is possible. If the Vikings decide to focus on young players like Mackenzie Alexander for bigger roles, he may not have a place in the rotation, and he probably won’t want to return for a 16th season just to ride the pine. Returning to Cincinnati will probably include some expectation of a major role (slot corner counts as such), and by letting go of Jones and/or Shaw would open up plenty of snaps for him.
The odds are long, but there’s a viable path for this reunion. Should it occur, Cincinnati’s corners may actually become the sort of strength in 2018 which they were supposed to be in 2017.