Cincinnati Bengals Should at Least Bring Nate Clements into Training Camp

Aaron NaglerNFL National Lead WriterMay 3, 2012

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 20:  Nate Clements #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals defends against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 31-24. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

It's what every veteran player worries about around draft time, especially veterans that are slated to make a decent salary in the upcoming season—their team using a first-round pick at their position, thereby possibly making them surplus to requirements. 

Such is the case with Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Nate Clements.

Clements has spent the offseason watching the Bengals bring in Adam Jones (who signed a one-year, $950,000 contract), Terence Newman (one-year, $825,000) and Jason Allen (two years, $8.2 million) in free agency.

Then Clements watched as the Bengals used their initial first-round pick on Dre Kirkpatrick in last weekend's draft.

That's a lot of new bodies at the cornerback position though, admittedly, outside Kirkpatrick possibly sometime down the road, it's hard to say any of them would be an upgrade from Clements. 

This activity left the Cincinnati Inquirer's Joe Reedy (who by the way is one of the best in the business) to opine that Clements could be a possible salary cap casualty come June 1st. Clements is entering the final year of his contract and has a cap number of $5.5 million.

While I think the possibility certainly exists, I think releasing Clements would be a mistake for the Bengals. Yes, you never want to pour too much money into one position and the Bengals will obviously be paying Kirkpatrick a good chunk of change. 

But if there is a group where teams should pay a little more, it's cornerback. It's tough enough finding talent at the position and Clements, while having been in the league for over a decade, is still talented and played well for much of 2011. 

In today's game, where offenses continually roll out three- and four-wide receiver sets, it makes much more sense to pony up for an extra corner or two. The Bengals are getting Jones and Newman at dirt-cheap rates and, let's face it, neither are a lock to make the final roster.

They did pay Leon Hall $14.1 million guaranteed last year when they signed him to a four-year extension, prior to his being placed in injured reserve with an Achilles injury. A trio of Hall, Clements and Kirkpatrick would be a great nickel package for Marvin Lewis' defense. 

While cutting Clements may be tempting, and goodness knows Bengals owner Mike Brown has been known to pinch a penny, it's much better to head into camp and let everyone battle it out rather than make an unnecessary cap-related decision in June.