Not one, not two, but three different defensive backs have left the Cincinnati Bengals for other teams, and they’re all in the NFC South.
Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell were the first to leave, taking offers from the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, respectively, during the first hours of legal tampering.
The latest departure is cornerback Tre Flowers, who signed a one-year deal to join Bates in Atlanta on Monday.
While Flowers was not a starter like either Bates and Bell were for the past few seasons, the niche role the former fifth-round pick found in the Queen City became another example of defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s ability to maximize his players with ideal defensive tasks.
He is a tall defensive back, standing at 6’3″ with nearly 34″ arms. He couldn’t find any sense of consistency as a cover corner on the boundary during his first few years with the Seattle Seahawks, and his drafted club waived him in the midst of the 2021 season.
Anarumo and the Bengals didn’t see an outside corner when the put in a claim for Flowers. They envisioned an overhang defender who can go toe-to-toe with the elite tight ends in the league. And that’s precisely what they found.
Flowers quickly acclimated himself in his new role, a subpackage contributor who almost exclusively stayed between the numbers and hashes outside of a handful of weeks when he was an emergency cornerback on the outside. In traditional terms, he was more of a box safety than anything.
One of his first major tests in this role was going up against Travis Kelce. He limited the stud tight end to just two catches for seven yards when matched up in coverage. He experienced even greater success against Kelce in their next meeting, holding the All-Pro to zero catches in the AFC title game.
Flowers earned a one-year deal to come back to Cincinnati in 2022 and fulfill the same role. He had three games with at least five coverage snaps and a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 87 or higher.
His peak performance came during the team’s impressive second half comeback against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he recorded his first and last interception in a Bengals uniform.
Of the 2,619 snaps the Bengals lost from the trio of Bates, Bell, and Flowers, the latter only accounted for about 7%. But the Bengals wouldn’t have allowed Flowers to walk out on them had they not been comfortable replacing him.
The signing of Nick Scott and drafting of Jordan Battle bring added diversity in the secondary to go with an already versatile defensive back in Dax Hill, who might end up taking Flowers’ main responsibilities in coverage.
Hill was primarily used as a nickel cornerback in college, and he got a taste of that role in limited reps last year as a rookie. The team plans to fully transition him to safety going forward, but the skillset is still there if they need it in a pinch. Playing close to the line of scrimmage is also possible for both Scott and Battle.
The options aren’t endless, but they are plentiful.
While Anarumo finalizes his plan going forward, Flowers gets another chance to prove himself in a secondary with a familiar face in Bates. The Falcons sorely needed new defensive talent all over the field, as they ranked 29th in EPA/dropback allowed and 30th in success rate against the pass. Flowers’ value will be put to the test once more in an even more dire situation.