5 free agents the Bengals could sign for the minimum

Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Bengals
Gareon Conley #22 of the Houston Texans (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Free Agents Bengals Could Sign for Minimum

Gareon Conley, CB, Houston Texans 

Gareon Conley does not fall into the bucket of “reliable veteran additions” so much as he could be a flier to add to the roster before the season begins. The Bengals, as noted earlier in the article, added some veteran talent to the secondary this offseason, but the team has not invested a high draft pick on the cornerback position since selecting William Jackson, who walked this offseason.

Conley has lost the luster of being a first-round selection, but he was the Raiders’ first selection only four years ago in the 2017 NFL Draft. A dynamic athlete coming out of Ohio St., Conley has been up and down since entering the league, and his stint in Houston has never gotten off the ground, especially after missing the entire 2020 season with a nagging ankle injury.

With Houston declining Conley’s fifth-year option, they do not seem to be interested in retaining him this offseason. Given that the Franchise Formerly Known as Oakland and Houston have washed their hands of Conley so quickly, his market should not be particularly robust, either.

However, there is still some untapped upside in Conley’s game. Like with Burton, Conley has not suffered any injuries that would sap his impressive athleticism, and he will only be 26 years old this season. Furthermore, Conley has been up and down, which means he has had some solid moments. In the three seasons he has played, his PFF grade has never dipped below 60.

The Bengals made a very similar move last season by adding another former first-round Ohio State corner in Eli Apple, who was unspectacular but not disastrous in his brief Cincinnati tenure. Conley may have even more breakout potential than Apple and would be a good flier for the team to take if they want a potential talent infusion at cornerback.

There are certainly more veteran options on the market, such as Sherman, Steven Nelson, or Brian Poole, if the Bengals were willing to pay a bit more for a more reliable presence. However, as far as bargain reclamation projects go, there are not many more intriguing than Gareon Conley.