After the 2010 season ended, the Bengals lost Johnathan Joseph, who had been the starter at cornerback opposite Leon Hall since he was drafted in 2006. With no obvious replacement on the roster, the team took to the free agent market in order to find a new starter. The result was Nate Clements. Clements signed a two-year contract to come to Cincinnati and take over the starting spot, and that’s just what he did.
Clements was drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Bills with the 21st overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft. He took over the starter’s job in Buffalo quickly and established himself as a very good CB. He recorded six interceptions in two of his first four seasons, and had a touchdown all four years. He also established himself as a solid tackler, willing to go up and hit running backs out of the backfield, something not all CBs like to do. This willingness to play in all facets of the game, combined with his abilities in the secondary would serve him very well, as after the 2006 season, he signed with the San Francisco 49ers for what was at the time the largest contract in NFL history for a defensive player at eight years for $80 million.
Though he was a solid player in San Francisco, the contract Clements signed was a tough one on the team. He still displayed solid coverage skills, and was still a fantastic tackler, but he didn’t make any Pro Bowls in his four seasons there, and Niners fans quickly became bitter about the amount of money he made, and it’s crippling effect on the team’s chances at signing other top players. After the 2010 season, he was released, which is where the Bengals came in.