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Friday, March 15, 2013
Cornerback options for Browns, Bengals

By Jamison Hensley

The cornerback market began to dry up over the past couple of days when the likes of Sean Smith (Kansas City), Chris Houston (Detroit), Keenan Lewis (New Orleans), Cary Williams (Philadelphia) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver) all signed.

This should catch the attention of the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, the two AFC North teams that are most likely to add a cornerback in free agency. The Browns need someone to start opposite Joe Haden, because they're not expected to re-sign Sheldon Brown. The Bengals are looking to bolster their depth at the position, especially if Terence Newman and Adam Jones go elsewhere in free agency.

The top cornerbacks available are the Falcons' Brent Grimes, the Patriots' Aqib Talib, the Eagles' Nnamdi Asomugha and the Vikings' Antoine Winfield. But it doesn't look as if these cornerbacks will be around long. Grimes could go to the Buccaneers (if they can't trade for Darrelle Revis) or return to the Falcons. Talib is expected to go back to New England. Asomugha is in serious talks with the 49ers. And Winfield has drawn some interest from the Redskins.

Where does this leave the Browns and Bengals? Cleveland's best bet will be either San Diego's Antoine Cason or Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn. Cason is a three-year starter who made eight interceptions and broke up 45 passes during that span. Munnerlyn, who started the past two seasons for the Panthers, has a familiarity with Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, the former offensive coordinator in Carolina.

The Bengals, whose focus has been to keep their own free agents, want to retain Newman, but he has decided to test the market, making a visit to Oakland on Thursday. He is considered the Bengals' second-highest priority behind right tackle Andre Smith. If Newman signs with the Raiders, that would shift Cincinnati's focus to Jones.