So much for that talk about the Bengals bringing back their entire first-team defense in 2012. The team announced Friday that it was releasing safety Chris Crocker, who started all 16 games a season ago.
The nine-year veteran has been with the Bengals since the midway point of the 2008 season. He’s started 44 of his 46 games with the teams racking up 169 tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions during his stint in Cincinnati.Crocker’s last interception, however came in Week 7 of the 2009 season and his per-game numbers were down across the board from 2010 to 2011.
The 32-year-old safety holds no ill-will toward his former employers, and said there was a slim window of opportunity for him to return to the team later in 2012.
“I have to say that Cincinnati has to be one of the best stretches of my career,” Crocker told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “The Brown (family) gave my career a second wind … I feel like a lot of good happened when I was in Cincinnati.”
With Crocker on his way out, the Bengals will be looking at a pair of athletic options (or an early draft pick) to take his position next to Reggie Nelson in the defense’s back line. Taylor Mays, a third-year player out of USC and second-year man Robert Sands from West Virginia are the two top nominees to fill the void left behind by Crocker.
Both players came to the team a year ago — Mays via a preseason trade and Sands from Round 5 of the NFL Draft — and each has the speed and size to make a big impact at the safety position. Mays has 48 career tackles and three passes defended in 26 appearances with the San Francisco 49ers and Bengals. Sands didn’t see the field on defense last year but Hobson reports that he had 10 tackles in preseason action last year.
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