NFL Free Agency: Cincinnati Bengals Release Safety Chris Crocker

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2012

CINCINNATI - OCTOBER 25:  Chris Crocker #42 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball after intercepting a pass during the NFL game against the Chicago Bears at Paul Brown Stadium on October 25, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Bengals won 45-10.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have made a flurry of moves in the past few weeks to improve on the surprise team from a year ago.

In the latest attempt to improve, the Bengals have employed a method of addition through subtraction.

Friday, the Bengals announced they have released veteran safety Chris Crocker. The timing of the move is interesting because Crocker was due only $2.4 million in 2012.

Crocker played four seasons in Cincinnati, and 2012 saw his performance dip as it had the past few seasons. Crocker started 16 games for the Bengals in 2012 and recorded 61 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

When asked about the move, Crocker had this to say:

"They wanted to let me know it was a durability issue and it wasn't a talent issue," Crocker said. "They're appreciative of my abilities as a player but I think in their mind it came down to my age and coming off the injury. I'm appreciate of what the Brown (family) did. They gave my career a second wind and I feel like good things happened when I was here in Cincinnati."

The move makes sense from a durability standpoint. Crocker is 32 years old and hadn’t played a full 16 game season before 2012 since 2006.

From a roster standpoint, the release is a bit puzzling. The Bengals now only have three safeties on the roster – Reggie Nelson, Taylor Mays and Robert Sands.

Head Coach Marvin Lewis has expressed confidence in the young players Mays and Sands, but it’s safe to say the Bengals will likely now address the position at some point in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Crocker says the organization told him there is a small chance they could bring still bring him back, but he intends to test the market.

Brining back Crocker as a cheap backup would be a solid move, but it’s clear the team wants to go in a different direction when it comes to a starting strong safety.

Crocker is stout against the run, effective when blitzing and is a known locker room leader, so if the price is right the Bengals could find quality veteran depth in Crocker.

Regardless of whether Crocker returns or not, Marvin Lewis and company are confident they have a starting strong safety currently on the roster, or will find one in the upcoming draft.