What are Bengals getting in Ex-Buckeye Vonn Bell?
The Cincinnati Bengals will likely take former Ohio Mr. Football and former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow with the first pick in the NFL Draft, but it's the defense that must be retooled for the Bengals to make appreciable improvement in 2020.
Toward that end, owner Mike Brown has been uncharacteristically aggressive, upgrading his defense with four new additions that contributed to the $146 million he spent in free agency.
Brown committed $18 million to former Buckeye Vonn Bell, who started at safety all four of his seasons in New Orleans, but became expendable when the Saints brought another former Buckeye, Malcolm Jenkins, back from Philadelphia to the franchise where he was drafted in 2008.
Brendan Boylan of Saints News Network, a Sports Illustrated Channel, gives a scouting report on Bell and the back story on Jenkins' homecoming in the Crescent City.
Question 1: Is this as simple as, there's room in New Orleans for only one ex-Buckeye safety, meaning Jenkins' arrival ended any chance of Bell returning?
Brendan Boylan/Saints News Network: "In short, yes. However, from what I understand. the Saints made an offer to Bell prior to the Eagles releasing Jenkins. The Saints wanted Bell back, but very much like the Mark Ingram II situation just a summer ago, Bell’s asking price was too high and the Saints went another direction, Ultimately Bell settled for less than his asking price, just not in NOLA."
Question 2: The Jenkins deal looks impressive, but what does it tell you about how long the Saints really intend to keep him? Two years, or longer?
Brendan Boylan/Saints News Network: "Jenkins’ contract looks like this -- four years, $32 million, with a $9 million signing bonus. Let's not forget Saints GM Mickey Loomis is a master of restructuring contracts, so no matter how long Jenkins is a Saint in this second stint, the salary cap hit will not be the issue. With that being said, Jenkins probably has two, maybe (and it's a, hard maybe) three good years left in the tank. He brings a veteran presence in the defensive backfield that the Saints have lacked the past few seasons. Don't be surprised if the Saints keep him all four years."
Question 3: What kind of season did Bell have last year? Did the Saints believe him expendable because of performance, or was it a money issue?
Brendan Boylan/Saints News Network: "Bell was a play-maker last season. The former Buckeye led the NFL in Forced Fumbles with five and held a Pro Football Focus grade of over 80 in run support. He's a big, physical safety that played around the box a lot. A lot of Saints fans really wanted Bell to return to New Orleans, but at the right price. Unfortunately, his asking price was too high for the Saints. It was rumored the Saints offered about $7.5 million a year, which is close to Jenkins’ annual salary with his new deal, but Bell wanted more money and the Saints moved on. Bell settled for less -- $6 million a year --to return to the State of Ohio."
Question 4: For Bengals fans, what kind of safety are they getting in Vonn Bell? If you were a defensive coordinator putting him in the best position to succeed, would you rely on him for run support, or for covering deep down the field?
Brendan Boylan/Saints News Network: "Bell is a safety with linebacker instincts in the run game. He's always ready to deliver a big hit or strip the ball away. He has the ability to continue to ascend to the top of the list of safeties in the league after the last two great seasons he had in New Orleans. Bengals fans are getting a hard-nosed play-maker, a guy you can easily root for every Sunday."
Question 5: It's been a few years since the murder of former Buckeye Will Smith. How is his influence still felt, or how has the franchise commemorated his contributions to the team?
Brendan Boylan, Saints News Network: "When it comes to influence felt, you have to look at the guys on that 2009 Super Bowl team with Will Smith. There are only three active members of that team left in the NFL -- Drew Brees, Malcolm Jenkins and Thomas Morstead.
"Malcolm Jenkins said when he re-signed with New Orleans that he still keeps a photo of Smith in his locker: "I still have Will Smith's picture in my locker because you build relationships and they just let you know that life is short.”
Drew Brees said of Smith: “He really was the cornerstone of our team. Will could always reference what it was like before we got there. His wisdom was so welcome. Not a rah-rah guy, but a guy you’d rely on every day. I would engage him, and he’d smile, and he would always be like, ‘We’re in this together.’”
"The Saints inducted Smith into its Ring of Honor in 2019 at halftime against the Bucs. He was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame shortly after his death in October of 2016."
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