Just like the Bengals targeted him back in January, secondary coach Vance Joseph targeted Danieal Manning when the Texans signed two safeties a few weeks back and he anticipated their old team would let Manning go.
The deal came down Thursday and gives the Bengals an eight-year veteran that could start Opening Day opposite Reggie Nelson as well as potentially another kickoff returner. At 6-0, 205 pounds, Manning, who turns 32 in training camp, squeezes nicely into the Bengals scheme after playing in Joseph's secondary in Houston the last three years.
"My relationship with Vance was one of the key connections then once you had time to do research once I got on the plane, and also just the experience I had playing this organization some of the guys, and going against some of these coaches I knew it was going to be a great fit," said Manning. "I am not going to lie, another reason that played a part in me coming here was I had seen the role that they had continuing to knock on the playoff door. I had seen this was a team that I would potentially love to play with if I ever had the opportunity to come to free agency. My prayers were answered. I'm just ecstatic and elated to be a part of the organization."
Joseph says Manning can play in the box as well as in high zones and he's comfortable lining him up in the slot as a nickel corner. Head coach Marvin Lewis always says the Bengals safeties have to play both free and strong and Joseph says Manning fits it all. A second-round pick of Lovie Smith's Bears in 2006 out of Abilene Christian, Manning is also adept playing in a Tampa 2 style.
"I feel like my talent and my skill set allows me to be comfortable in doing whatever the coaches want, if that's playing strong safety, free, coming out and playing nickel and dime, occasionally going out to play corner, I feel like the skillset is there," said Manning. "Also being able to contribute on special teams whenever I get a chance to do that. Ultimately, I'll do whatever will make the team better and gives us a chance to win."
He joins a secondary that is already steeped in experience and pedigree. Cornerbacks Terence Newman (35), Adam Jones (30), and Leon Hall (29) are all first-rounders, as is the 30-year-old Nelson. Manning has started 91 of his 112 NFL games and started the first six last year before his season ended with a broken leg.
"When we were in Houston, we were No. 2 in pass defense my first year there and three last year, so he's played some good football for me," Joseph said. "He's a good tackler in the box and he can go up and make plays on the ball down the field in traffic. We didn't have free or strong in Houston, we had left and right, so he knows how to play that and coming from Chicago he knows how to play half (field coverage).
"He fits right in line with the guys we've got like Terence Newman and Leon and all those guys," Joseph said. "He's a great locker room guy and he loves to practice."
The Bengals liked what George Iloka did in his second season and he won't be easy to nudge out of the starting lineup. But they are looking for more turnovers back there after Iloka led the defense with more than 1,000 snaps and had just one interception. Manning brings 11 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles in a career that began with the Bears' Super Bowl run in '06.
"We're always looking for depth and competition and this guy gives us a veteran presence back there,' said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther."We want guys that will compete and this guy will come in and compete for a job. He's a guy that can run and can tackle and he can cover tight ends."
Manning hasn't returned kicks regularly since 2010, but he had some success as his 26.8-yard average attests on 116 career returns. That would shatter the Bengals current career record held by incumbent Brandon Tate at 24.8, but Manning has returned just one kick in each of the past two seasons.
He is probably making about double the minimum salary, but that won't hurt the Bengals on compensatory draft picks because Manning doesn't figure into the formula since he was released and not an unrestricted free agent.