Cornerback B.W. Webb, who had the best of his five NFL seasons last year under Giants secondary coach Lou Anarumo, tracked him down in Cincinnati long enough to sign a three-year deal Thursday that could make him the Bengals' No. 1 slot cornerback.
"It's a blessing to be back with him," Webb said as the weather sirens enveloped Paul Brown Stadium's late afternoon sky. "Great coach. He knows my style of play. He knows what I need to work on and what I can do well. He's helped my understanding of the game. Just knowing it's not really all on a physical level, but mental. That's knowing things inside and out. Knowing what your teammates are doing. Knowing your leverages. He did just a great job staying on me all year."
Anarumo, the Bengals' new defensive coordinator, rekindled the relationship in a Thursday morning meeting before taking off to scout.
"I told him I'd give him 100 bucks to say it. Now I'll make it 200 since he did say it," Anarumo joked from the road. "He'd bounced around the league and came into New York last year and settled himself down and had a solid year. He's a smart guy and playing multiple positions isn't hard on him. When we traded Eli Apple, he had to move to the outside and he really played well out there."
With the deal believed to be worth $13 million, Webb can cover Anarumo. The question is if he can cover another former Giant that ended up in the AFC North this week when New York traded wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., to Cleveland. Since the Bengals are paying Webb about $4.5 million per, they've left room to host visits Friday. Two young starters, age 26 in Bills right guard John Miller and Denver pass rusher/linebacker Shaq Barrett, are in town, according to reports
As free agency headed into its third day Friday, there were talks that could add Miller, a third-round draft pick that started all four seasons in Buffalo, and Barrett, a linebacker/edge rusher that had 14 sacks, 137 tackles and seven passes defensed in five seasons in Denver at both spots, to deals for right tackle Bobby Hart, tight end C.J. Uzomah and middle linebacker Preston Brown.
The name of Darqueze Dennard, the Bengals' incumbent slot corner, has yet to surface since he went on the market. Dennard, a first-round pick in 2014, played last year on an $8.5 million club option and Thursday's visits reflected the Bengals' strategy to fill multiple holes with young veterans. They signed Hart, 24, in a three-year base deal of $16.5 million during the same week the Broncos' made Ja'Wuan James the richest right tackle in the league on a four-year deal that gave him $32 million guaranteed even though profootballfocus.com said he allowed seven sacks and rated him 53rd out of the 66 tackles that played 300 snaps, according to NFL.com. The league web site also reported Trent Brown became the highest-paid tackle in the league (four years, $66 million, $36.5 million guaranteed) despite giving up PFF's third most quarterback hits for tackles.
The 5-10, 183-pound Webb, who turns 29 in time for the May practices, had career highs under Anarumo with 13 starts and 91 percent play time. When the Giants traded Apple, Webb held up well enough on the outside to be ranked as the 19th best cover cornerback last year by PFF. That put three Bengals in the top 20 with starters Dre Kirkpatrick rated 13th and William Jackson 16th.
"All three of those guys can really run fast," Anarumo said. "That's what you want. You don't want anybody throwing it over your head. Dre's been around a long time and Will knows his way around, too back there. They've all been around."
PFF graded Webb comparable with Dennard in the slot. The web site had Webb allowing a catch for every 12.5 snaps he played in the slot and Dennard was 8.7 while Webb gave up 1.2 yards per catch and Dennard 1.15. Webb, who naturally goes by "Spider," as well as B.W. because he's named after his dad William 'Bill,' Webb, can tell his mates what to expect from Anarumo.
"He tells you everything up front. He won't BS you with anything," Webb said. "He's going to tell you what it is and why and that's the kind of guy he was and that's the kind of guy I want."
Webb, a fourth-round pick by the Cowboys in 2013, is joining his sixth team but he's already got a huge comfort level with the coaching staff. There's not only Anarumo, but safeties coach Robert Livingston, his mentor in the William and Mary secondary all those years ago.
"It's crazy how everything just turns full circle," Webb said. "He knew everything on the field. I'm excited to be learning from him and Lou. Rob always knew what the other team was going to run. His head was always in the books. What a smart player. He'd yell at you when he knew something was coming. I can only imagine how that translates to coaching. I'm sure he's a great coach."
Livingston shepherded Webb through one of the great days in William and Mary history in a game that was Webb's collegiate debut. The rookie from Newport News, Va., had three interceptions, one a pick-six in a stunner over Virginia at Charlottesville.
"Unbelievable," Webb said of the touchdown. "It was Cover 2 and I jumped the route. I'm sure (Livingston) had me over the top."
The Bengals are hoping Webb has their back in one of the defense's hot spots.
Take a look at new Bengals CB B.W. Webb in action. Webb spent the 2018 season with the New York Giants.