The Cincinnati Bengals have always been a team that sifts through the bargain bin looking for that hidden gem.
Sometimes, like Cedric Benson, the Bengals hit gold and are rewarded with a Pro Bowl player. More often, Cincinnati gets a Matt Jones who doesn’t even make the opening day roster.
This year, the Bengals have four such players that fit into that mold: Cornerbacks Jason Allen and Terence Newman and defensive tackles Jamaal Anderson and Derrick Harvey. All four are former first-round picks and with the exception of Newman, have essentially been busts in the NFL.
Like Benson, all four new could each see a career resurgence with the Bengals this season. But each could also flame out and essentially be non-factors. Let’s take a closer look at all four.
Allen is now a member of the highest drafted cornerback group in league history. Like Newman, holdovers Leon Hall and Adam Jones, and new draftee Dre Kirkpatrick, Allen is a first-round pick.
Other than Kirkpatrick, who has yet to play a game, Allen is arguably the most disappointing of the group. Drafted by the Miami Dolphins, Allen spent the last two years with the Houston Texans where he had four interceptions and 12 passes defended a year ago.
But Allen could end up making a contribution. Both Hall and Jones—the presumed starters—are coming off injuries and Kirkpatrick may not be ready to start immediately. As his 12 passes defended show, Allen is still an athletic player who could make a serious contribution to the Bengals defense this year.
Anderson was solid if unspectacular for the Indianapolis Colts last year but the former first-rounder could really shine in defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s system in Cincinnati.
While Anderson did have three sacks last year, his main strength is in stopping the run, something that is always important in the AFC North. He will step into the Bengals’ heavy defensive line rotation and could prove to be a valuable piece, especially on short-yardage situations.
Like Anderson, Harvey will be looked upon to join the Bengals’ tough d-line rotation. But unlike Anderson, Harvey has been an unmitigated bust in four seasons in the league.
He faces an uphill battle to make the team thanks to draft picks Devon Still and Brandon Thompson but if he can reach his first-round status, he will be a steal.
No newcomer is more intriguing than Newman, a former first-rounder that the Bengals almost took in 2002 instead of Carson Palmer.
Newman has been a Pro Bowler but has slipped in recent years. Still, he had four interceptions with a touchdown, 46 tackles and eight passes defended last season.
Newman’s best years came when Zimmer was running the defense in Dallas and the Bengals are hoping that he will rediscover the spark now that he is back with Zimmer in Cincinnati. If he does, he will give the Bengals arguably the best cornerback group in the league.