NFL Trade Rumors: Donte Whitner Could Go to Cincinnati Bengals

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2011

MIAMI - DECEMBER 19: Cornerback Donte Whitner #20 of the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

Donte Whitner was much maligned during his five-year career with the Buffalo Bills.

The eighth-overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Whitner could never live up to the hype.

By the time he recorded 140 tackles in 2010, fans had already given up on the former Ohio State Buckeye. It now appears Whitner could be headed back to the Buckeye State to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals.

ESPN's John Clayton confirms Cincinnati's interest:

"There is a good chance safety Donte Whitner gets a deal done with the Bengals. It would be a nice fit."

Whitner would replace the injury-prone Roy Williams in the Cincinnati secondary.

Whitner hasn't been the definition of durable during his career either, missing at least one game in four of his five seasons. He did play all 16 games last year, though, and was able to illustrate the potential the Bills had seen when they decided to draft him high in 2006.

The Bengals know what they would get with Whitner.

He is a sure tackler who excels in run support and likes to play close to the box. His coverage skills are below average but aren't as bad as they were made to look playing behind Buffalo's atrocious front seven.

Cincinnati finished last season ranked 19th in the league against the run, giving up more than 115 yards per game.

They also allowed 15 rushing touchdowns, which tied for eighth-worst in the NFL. So there is definitely room for improvement in that aspect of the game.

The only possible problem with this scenario would be current Bengals safety Reggie Nelson.

Nelson, like Whitner, has become a much better defender in run support than he is in coverage. Both players have struggled when forced to play free safety.

Nelson did show improvement in the latter stages of 2010, however, and might be ready for another chance at a full-time free safety role.

If the Bengals feel they could get enough pass coverage between the two first-round picks, signing Whitner would be a smart move.

That's a big question mark, though.

It was clear that Whitner had fallen out of favor in Buffalo, so a new home might be exactly what he needs to revive his once-promising career.

With an otherwise quiet market for his services, Whitner would be smart to sign on the dotted line before the Bengals look elsewhere to fill their need at safety.