Kurt Coleman could be coming home to continue his football career in Ohio.
The former Ohio State and Northmont High School standout met with the Cincinnati Bengals and a few other teams Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
While unrestricted free agents whose contracts expired in 2017 have to wait until March 14 to sign with new teams, Coleman can sign right away after the Carolina Panthers cut him Monday with two years remaining on the three-year, $17 million extension he signed following the team’s run to the Super Bowl in 2015.
“In viewing him on tape, I thought he fit the things schematically we want to see and felt really good about his ability to help us continue to upgrade the defensive football team,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said Friday morning.
While the Bengals have starting safeties Shawn Williams and George Iloka through 2020, Coleman fits what the defense is looking for under new coordinator Teryl Austin — a veteran leader who has a knack for forcing turnovers.
“One thing I want to look at it with any defensive guy is can he turn the ball over for us,” Austin said. “When we’re looking at secondary guys, we want to see if they can intercept it and see if they can cause fumbles. We’re looking at guys who can make impact plays.”
Coleman failed to intercept a pass in 2017 for just the second time in eight seasons. But he had seven in 2015, one shy of the NFL lead, and four in 2016.
Last year the 14 turnovers the Bengals forced were a franchise low (including the strike-shortened 1987 season when they had 20 in just nine games).
Only twice in 2017 did the Cincinnati defense come up with more than one turnover in a game, and never more than two.
Lewis said creating more in 2018 will be a focus.
“It has to be part of what you do each day when that time rolls around for that opportunities,” he said. “Also, having players such as Kurt Coleman, if we’re able to add him to the mix, that have been really proficient at turning the ball over.
Coleman, who will turn 30 on July 1, has 21 career interceptions in eight seasons with the Eagles, Chiefs and Panthers.
He missed four games last year with a knee injury, but he passed a physical in Cincinnati on Thursday before driving to Indianapolis to meet with several teams, including the Bengals.
Published reports also have him talking to the New Orleans Saints, the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants, whose new general manager Dave Gettleman held the same position with Carolina from 201-16 and brought Coleman to the Panthers in 2015.
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Austin said he doesn’t have a prior connection with Coleman but described him as his kind of player.
“Whenever there’s a veteran guy that comes free, at this time of year you’re always looking to see if those guys can help improve your team,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on with (contract talks). There’s other guys. We’ll look and if they can help better our team, that’s what we’re going to look at it.”