First Things First: Who Do the Bengals Re-Sign?











With the lockout over and with players and coaches eager to get into training camp, free agency is bearing down on teams like Peko on Polamalu. For the Bengals, not only does that mean bringing in new talent to fill vital needs, but working to keep current players to avoid creating more needs. On the offense, the Bengals have 4 Unrestricted Free Agents whose fate they must decide:

Cedric Benson (RB),
Reggie Kelly (TE),
Evan Mathis (G),
Terrell Owens (WR)

and 2 Restricted Free Agents:

Kirk Chambers (OT),
Brian Leonard (FB),

Until his arrest last week in Austin, Texas (again – for the second summer in a row), re-signing Benson was hardly even a question mark. Though his 2010 campaign didn’t match what he did in the last few games of 2008 and in 2009, Benson remains a powerful runner with considerable speed for his size. Given the severity and circumstances of his assault on Clavens Charles, it’s unlikely that Benson won’t face a suspension from the league. He might even have to spend time in jail. Nevertheless, the Bengals are still the Bengals, and many people are guessing that Mike Brown might decide to re-sign Benson anyway. After all, these latest altercations with the law DO drive down his value on the free agent market, and Brown is always looking for a deal.

Personally, I doubt they re-sign Benson. Because he faces possible jail time for the latest incident, or at least a league suspension, where’s the sense in it? They’d have to go out and sign a free agent “bell cow” like Michael Bush to cover the time that Benson would miss. I can’t see Brown paying two “bell cows” nor Marvin Lewis wanting to keep two of them on his roster. As much as I prize Benson’s talents and his leadership on this team, I think we will see a lamentable parting of ways.


In the case of Reggie Kelly, I have no reason to doubt that he will retire in stripes. He’s a great blocker, and a wonderful mentor to the still emerging Jermaine Gresham. He will be re-signed, as will Brian Leonard. Leonard is a valuable third down back who doesn’t know how to not play at full speed.

Evan Mathis has already expressed his disgust with the Bengals. He has no desire to come back, but it won’t be a great loss. The interior of the Bengals offensive line needs new blood, beginning with rookie Clint Bolling. The Bengals still need to pick up another interior lineman (or two) on the free agent market. Good luck to Mathis, wherever he may land.

As for Terrell Owens, it’s not worth much discussion. He won’t be back in Cincinnati, and probably not back in the NFL until 2012 because of his off-season knee surgery. But I guess we should never count TO out.

On defense, the Bengals must decide on these Unrestricted Free Agents:

Jonathan Fanene (DE),
Dhani Jones (ILB),
Keiwan Ratliff (CB),
Roy Williams (S)
Gibril Wilson (S),

and these Restricted Free Agents:

Brandon Johnson (OLB),
Johnathan Joseph (CB),
Chinedum Ndukwe (S)
Marvin White (S)

Joseph is nearly a no brainer at this point, especially with Adam Jones’ neck injury. There are few corners in the league as good as Joseph. However, the Bengals’ other starting CB, Leon Hall, becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2012, and it’s not likely that they’d opt to resign both of them. Each of them will command huge salaries in the free agent market. Should they try to keep both? Yes, but how realistic is that? Of the two of them, which one would you keep? Hall, who is less spectacular but far more reliable in terms of his ability to stay healthy? Or Joseph, who is the more dynamic of the two, but has been injury prone and missed several games over the past 2-3 years? With rookie Korey Lindsey and 2nd year player, Brandon Ghee, competing for playing time along with Jonathan Wade and Rico Murray, don’t be surprised to see the Bengals refuse to match another team’s offer, though we should all hope they do.

Staying with the defensive secondary, you will notice that the Bengals have 4 safeties to make decisions on. Oft-injured veteran Roy Williams is probably the least likely to be offered a new contract, especially now that the Bengals have drafted West Virginia’s Robert Sands. Sands promises to lend a real physical presence to the Bengals secondary, and his skills would seem to match perfectly with those of Reggie Nelson.

They will probably keep Gibril Wilson, a free agent pick up from a year ago, as well as Chinedum Ndukwe and possibly White. Williams, however, continues to be plagued by his broken forearm that inhibits him from renewing the form that once made him one of the most intimidating forces in the NFL.

Jonathan Fanene will likely re-sign with the Bengals, though he won’t command a huge contract. When healthy, Fanene plays the game with a great deal of passion and has proven to be a fairly effective pass rusher. Likewise, the Bengals will probably make every effort to resign Brandon Johnson, an outside linebacker who is very solid in pass coverage.

The possible re-signing of Dhani Jones would seem to depend on whether or not he would be willing to move to a back-up role at middle linebacker behind Rey Maualuga and Vinnie Rey. Jones has clearly lost a step (or two) and offers very little in pass coverage. Though he has been Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer’s field general, his play in the middle has been solid but seldom spectacular. While I wouldn’t rule out the Bengals bringing him back because of his leadership and Maualuga’s suspect ability to know and run the defense, I personally favor giving the other Rey (Vinnie Rey – the UDFA out of Duke University) the keys to the car. Unlike at USC, playing the middle at Duke only garners you attention if you’re playing basketball. But make no mistake, V. Rey will be starting at middle linebacker for the Bengals by the end of the 2011 season.

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Tags: 2011 Free Agents Cedric Benson Jonathan Joseph

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