Terence Newman has said he wanted to play for a contender and Mike Zimmer.
In the end, it had to be Cincinnati and Newman tweeted as such late Friday night after reaching what is believed to be a two-year deal in the $5 million range with $3 million in 2013. Which means Zimmer, the Bengals defensive coordinator, is going to line up all his regulars from last year's sixth-ranked defense that were in free agency. Right end Michael Johnson has signed his $11.1 million franchise tender and left end Robert Geathers, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga and third cornerback Adam Jones signed in the past three weeks.
"After much time and thought, I'm heading back to Cincy. And for those of you who think it was about money, the Raiders offered more," Newman tweeted.
"I came in with Mike Zimmer and feel it's only right that I leave as him coaching me. Thanks to Raiders Nation for showing me such love."
Newman, who will be 35 Opening Day, sought a two-year deal and if the Bengals didn't match the money then they offered not only Zimmer but also stability with speculation that the Oakland regime of head coach Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie is in a make-or-break year.
The only "regular" that Zimmer loses is SAM backer Manny Lawson, who played only about a third of the snaps. When third cornerback Adam Jones tweeted his three-year deal last week, he said Newman planned to return because of the consistency that had developed with the three corners anchoring a pass defense that allowed just four touchdown passes in the 7-1 finish.
"I was talking to Leon (Hall) and the first thing I asked him is 'How long is your contract?' " Jones said. "We've got a pretty good tandem going back there. The three of us like playing together. It's fun. One of us might be down one day, but the other guy picks him up."
With those three back, as well as last year's No. 1 pick Dre Kirkpatrick, it may mean that veteran corner Jason Allen is on the roster bubble after he played in just one game last season. Last year's fifth-rounder, Shaun Prater, and 2010 third-rounder Brandon Ghee are targeting the Nos. five and six corners.
The one hole the Bengals have to fill is the safety spot manned by free agent Chris Crocker. It's widely believed the Bengals are going to draft a safety to pair opposite Reggie Nelson in the first two rounds.
Newman, the fifth player taken in the 2003 draft by the Cowboys, broke into the NFL under Zimmer and in Zimmer's remaining four seasons in Dallas that's how Newman molded his game. On the street last spring after Dallas cut him following a tough season, Newman was rejuvenated under his mentor in Cincinnati and responded with play that conjured up his two Pro Bowl seasons.
Exhibits A and B were his interceptions of consecutive Peyton Manning passes (one in the end zone) that set up 10 points and a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter before Denver pulled out a 31-23 win on Nov. 4 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Newman replaced Nate Clements as the starter after a preseason he stayed the healthiest and most reliable of the five Bengals first-round corners and ended up ranked as the 19th-best corner in the league by Pro Football Focus.
"I would say 70 percent of it is Zim and the other 30 percent is the fact I've worked to get back where I was and he's coached the hell out of me to get back to that," Newman said last December as he prepared to meet the Cowboys. "A lot of it was I was guessing on routes instead of playing them."
Now the guess is Cincinnati's next (and last) major deal it wants to get before the April 25-27 draft is with right tackle Andre Smith. He shares Newman's agent, Ben Dogra, and it's believed the sides have also had exchanges on a Smith contract while working out the Newman deal.