In a surprising turn of events, safety Vonn Bell will not be returning to the Cincinnati Bengals. Instead, he is signing with the Carolina Panthers. Losing Bell, and with Jessie Bates still a free agent and his future uncertain, the safety spot is now an area they need to heavily address. Of the free agents left, these are the top options for Cincinnati to target.
When talking about Gardner-Johnson, his versatility has to be brought up first. He has played on the defensive line, in the box, at safety, in the slot, and even outside corner. Being able to line up all over the defense would give Lou Anarumo a chess piece to utilize anywhere, and rely on him to be effective. Last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, he allowed only 338 yards and four touchdowns over 41 receptions while also having six interceptions, five tackles for a loss, and allowing only 170 yards after the catch. At just 25 years old, he could provide the Bengals with a young playmaker in the secondary just entering the prime of his career.
Rapp is another versatile safety the Bengals could target. He has playing time on the defensive line, and in the box, in addition to deep at safety. Rapp is coming off his best season in which he allowed only 35 receptions for 262 yards and two touchdowns while creating three pass breakups, two interceptions, and had 14 run stops. With his 6’0, 208 pound frame, he has also been able to come downhill and cover tight ends effectively. With four seasons under his belt, he would be able to provide experience alongside Dax Hill if Bates doesn’t return. At just 25 years old as well, like Gardner-Johnson, he is still young with plenty of potential to still unlock.
A few offseasons ago, the Bengals went on to sign Mike Hilton in free agency from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that worked out well. That was at cornerback, why not test that out at safety as well. Edmunds has been reliable over five seasons with the Steelers, playing 2,898 snaps and accumulating 22 pressures, five sacks, 118 run stops, only allowing 1,702 yards with 691 yards coming after the catch, five interceptions, and 19 pass breakups. The biggest thing is that he has shown improvement as a tackler and his overall growth each year is a great sign that he will continue to develop as he is just 26 years old. Sticking with a common theme, Edmunds also has versatility. He has played 177 snaps on the defensive line, 1,989 snaps in the box, 1,446 snaps at safety, and 1,280 snaps in the slot.