Hobson's Choice: Return of Madieu is coming attraction

What is the status on Madieu Williams for next season? I hear a lot of talk about getting a safety through the draft or free agency, but If Madieu is healthy, he gives us an "all pro" caliber safety.Jason, Mason, Ohio JASON:

As one Bengals' insider said recently, "Having Madieu back is like having an extra first-round pick," and Marvin Lewis has already said he expects Williams back for the spring camps. His return, obviously, paints the secondary with a different brush when looking at free agency and the draft.

There has been no indication from the Bengals that they expect complications from the shoulder surgery that ended Williams' season after just four games. If he's the same guy that played as a rookie two years ago, then he's their best defensive player as a safety who can go get and catch the ball as well as make a sure tackle on a blitz or in the box.

And, don't forget, he's also their best nickel cornerback. That is going to make them better on third down, which got to be a big problem down the stretch. His presence should also help the other sore Achilles' heel from late in the year, the long pass plays.

Given that Williams is a do-it-all defensive back, it would make you think that allows the Bengals to pursue more of an in-the-box safety that can really support the running game.

Obviously Lewis isn't looking for a fourth linebacker (Tank Williams?) because he's always talking about how both his safeties have to be able to run, cover, and be interchangeable. But if a guy like the Steelers' Chris Hope is more of a center-field type, then is that what they really need back there? It would seem they need the big tackler, and wouldn't that be a guy more like the Rams' Adam Archuleta?

The biggest question in free agency might not be which safety they pursue, but what kind. Lewis is always mindful of the pass, but will they give up some coverage to be stouter in the AFC Stout?

By the time free agency and the draft clears with Williams in toe, you figure a guy like veteran safety Kim Herring and his $1.2 million salary are going to be in a roster fight and a young practice squad safety like the promising Herana-Daze Jones is probably going to be pushing a veteran like Anthony Mitchell if Mitchell does the expected and re-signs.

The return of Williams certainly has the juices flowing. Put him in there with the two kids who are no longer rookies (linebackers Odell Thurman and David Pollack) for the first time and that's a ton of athleticism.

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