In the first few days of free agency, the Bengals are generally about as active as a university library on a Friday night. This year is shaping up no differently. If you were watching the headlines over the weekend for teams looking to bring in new guys, you saw plenty of teams being discussed. But the Bengals were not one of them.
That is not to say that the Bengals have not been busy in this run up to the start of free agency. As has been referenced for months, the team has been very active in pursuing their own free agents, trying to maintain the roster they have built and prevent their own from hitting the open market. In the past few days, they have made a number of such moves, beginning with the franchise tag of Michael Johnson that consumed $11M of the teams’ estimated $55M in cap space.
Since then, they have returned the entire special teams unit of field-flipper Kevin Huber, flawless long snapper Clark Harris, and opting to keep the younger (though often injured) Mike Nugent over his good replacement, Josh Brown, which has been received with mixed reviews. My suspicion is that the club felt that they rolled 7s last year with Brown after calling him off of the couch to kick after Nugent went on IR. Nugent will have to stay healthy all season for the front office to look good on this decision. But keeping a good kicking unit in place this weekend was a win for the team.
The team also kept a trio of up-and-comers in Cedric Peerman, Jeromy Miles and Vincent Rey. The coaches like all three players, and they are likely to see their roles expanded this year. Depending on who and when the Bengals take their first running back (they will likely draft two), Peerman could be the front runner for working in tandem with BJGE. And with the need at safety, Miles could get a long look to start opposite Reggie Nelson. Both will be primary backups if they do not win the starting gig. Rey is far less likely to start, but he could still move up the depth chart and see his number of snaps in rotation increase.
Finally, the team made their most lauded signing of the weekend by offering Wallace Gilberry a 3-yr/$6.75M deal. He definitely looks to be the right guy in the right place at the right time, fitting well in Zimmer’s rotational system after being cut by two other teams. If Gilberry simply holds steady in his production, the team will have made a steal. If he improves at all, they will look absolutely brilliant.
A lot of work remains, however, if the team wants to not regress. Re-signing Adam Jones is imperative. He proved how valuable he can be when healthy, and the team invested a lot of patience in him, waiting through injury after injury to get him there. Terence Newman ought to want to stay with the team because he is far better with Zimmer than without. I would not be surprised if the team does (or does not) announce deals with guys like Thomas Howard, Dan Skuta or Dennis Roland.
The team looks poised to allow Andre Smith and Rey Maualuga to test the open market. They seem to want both back, but not at their current asking prices. Allow Smith that chance is a riskier move than Maualuga (who likely will see very little interest), but at an asking price of $9M based on one really good year, who can blame them? And the team appears ready to part ways with both Pat Sims and Bruce Gradkowski.
As for guys outside the roster, there is not even a rumor to report. With teams free to start signing guys on Tuesday, there probably still won’t be much to report until late in the week when the spending frenzy is over and coaches can do some scouring for more of those “diamond in the rough” players that they have become pretty good at finding.
So while we are likely to be a bit underwhelmed at whomever the team finally does sign, hopefully they will bring more to the team than we see at first.