Nate Clements leads Cincinnati Bengals roster battle


Training camp is finally almost here. They allow tackling there and everything. Around the League will count down the top 30 position battles to watch throughout the preseason.

No. 27: Cincinnati Bengals cornerback: Nate Clements, Terence Newman, Jason Allen and Adam Jones are battling for roster spots.

Top 30 training camp position battles

No. 30: Seahawks running backs
No. 29: Packers No. 3 receiver
No. 28: Broncos backup running back
No. 27: Bengals cornerbacks
No. 26: Raiders backup quarterback
No. 25: Cardinals receiver
No. 24: Jets right tackle
No. 23: Jets linebacker
No. 22: Redskins running back
No. 21: Giants No. 3 receiver
No. 20: Patriots receiver
No. 19: Colts tight end
No. 18: Rams receivers
No. 17: Jaguars quarterbacks
No. 16: Bears wide receivers
No. 15: NFL safety battles
No. 14: Jaguars No. 2 receiver
No. 13: Bears left tackle
No. 12: Randy Moss vs. Father time
No. 11: Lions receivers
No. 10: Cardinals running back
No. 9: Ravens pass rusher
No. 8: Dolphins quarterback
No. 7: Buccaneers running back
No. 6: Steelers defensive end
No. 5: Dolphins wide receiver
No. 4: Cardinals quarterback
No. 3: The Oakland Raiders
No. 2: Titans quarterback
No. 1: Seahawks quarterback

• Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis thinks it's unnecessary for a player who is earning a salary to take a dozen Gatorades home with him each night, but he's fine with bringing a half dozen current or former first-round draft pick cornerbacks with him to training camp. Two of the six -- Leon Hall (2007) and Dre Kirkpatrick (2012) -- are assured of roster spots, leaving the other four to compete for two, perhaps three roster spots.

• Hall suffered a torn Achilles midway through the season but does not appear likely to land on the physically-unable-to-perform list. As long as he's healthy, he'll start. Kirkpatrick was a bit of a gambler at Alabama, where he says he never backpedaled. Though he might be eased into the NFL, his play-making ability is simply too great for him to not see considerable playing time in nickel and dime packages early in the season. Incumbent starter Nate Clements had a solid first season, but is not a lock to make the 53-man roster. The 32-year-old is due $4.3 million in base salary and could be released if Hall proves he's healthy, Kirkpatrick shows he's ready, and the remaining three first-rounders justify their signings (or re-signing, in the case of Jones).

• Of the three signings/re-signings this offseason, Jones has the seniority with the franchise. He's spent the last two seasons with the the Bengals and started eight games (including playoffs) in place of Hall last season. Newman has the experience with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who was with the Dallas Cowboys when Newman entered the NFL in 2003. Allen, who had a career-high four interceptions for the Houston Texans in 2011, has been the healthier player and has the edge in contractual guarantee after signing a two-year, $7.2 million contract that included $2 million in guarantees. Jones has $75,000 guaranteed, while Newman was guaranteed $100,000.

Projected Winner(s): Clements, Allen and Jones. Clements was solid for the Bengals last season and continuity at the position could trump cash/cap savings. Allen is good enough to start, has the size to match up with some of the game's bigger wideouts and has added value on special teams, where had eight solo tackles and played in 34.5 percent of the Texans' special teams snaps in 2011. As long as Jones stays healthy, he could be a good option as a nickel corner and has game-changing ability on punt returns.