Bengals Signing Vonn Bell Continues Ohio State Love

Bruce Hooley

The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns have for two decades followed strategies as disparate as their southernmost and northernmost geographic locations in the State of Ohio when it came to utilizing Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Browns have taken exactly three OSU players in the draft in the 21 years since their re-establishement in 1999.

The Bengals in their first 50 seasons drafted 28 Buckeyes, 10 more than from any other school.

So it came as no surprise Wednesday that Cincinnati, in need of a safety to shore up a struggling defense, opted for former Buckeye Vonn Bell.

The former five-star, Urban Meyer recruit signed a three-year, $18-million deal to join the suddenly-free-agent-friendly Bengals, who are expected to take another former Buckeye, Joe Burrow, with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, whenever it occurs.

The Bengals come by their Ohio State love honestly, of course, with owner Mike Brown having been a seven-year-old lad at the knee of franchise founder, Paul Brown, when he coached OSU to the 1942 national championship.

When PB founded the Bengals in the summer of 1967, he prepared for his inaugural season the next year by grabbing two former Buckeyes in the AFL expansion draft and drafting 11 OSU players in the team's first decade, including two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

Bell will find plenty of familiar faces in the Cincinnati locker room, where Billy Price (2018 first round), Michael Jordan (2019 fourth round) and Sam Hubbard (2018 second round) are already headquartered.

By contrast, when the Browns selected OSU's Denzel Ward fourth overall in 2018, he became the first Buckeye drafted in Cleveland since Brian Robiskie in 2009. And before Robiskie, only one other Buckeye (Darnell Sanders in 2002) heard their name called by the team since it came back into existence in 1999.

Bell had a productive first four seasons in New Orleans and joins a Bengals' defensive backfield that will be deep at safety, with Jesse Bates and Shawn Williams, and at cornerback, with free agents MacKensie Alexander and Trae Waynes joining holdovers William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick.

That should help cut down the massive number of 20-yard-plus completions the Bengals allowed last season -- 70 in all.

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