When our season ended, we arguably had four key positions of need with three draft picks in the first two rounds. Undoubtedly, we had a number of free agents to resign or release, but still, we were way under the salary cap. Best of all, Mike Brown and Co. looked like they were finally doing the right by the fans and the team. This was supposed to be a simple, building off-season! Now, as if Jerome Simpson’s ‘Not Guilty’ plea wasn’t heart-breaking enough, lil’ Rey Rey has to go and punch the proprietor of a local drinking establishment in the face only three days after finishing Probation for his DUI last year in Covington, KY. I thought Marvin Lewis was running this show, not Bob Huggins!
In short, the roster games just got interesting. Too big to address all at once, I’m going to be taking a several snap-shot looks at Bengals personnel needs as we lead up to the NFL Draft 2012. With a much more difficult schedule next year, the front office knows the fan base is watching very closely to see if we are going to have a repeat of the 2010 deflation effort, and therefore, I expect us to be more aggressive than in years past. …so does most of the fan base.
The guard position has to be addressed if the Bengals want to keep new quarterback healthy. While Bobby Williams has been productive, he’s going to be a free-agent this year and will turn 36 in September. Nate Livings has been liability for years, and somehow managed to keep the starting job ahead of Evan Mathis, who was traded away to the Eagles this past off-season and is currently a stud in that system. Waiting in the wings, are third and fifth round picks Clint Boling and Otis Hudson, respectively. While both have the size, youth and look great on paper, we’ve really not seen a great deal from these two, which may indicate low performance on the practice field. Lastly, fifth-year veteran Mike McGlynn is a free agent as well, but I haven’t forgotten that it was his lack of putting a body on J.J. Watt that allowed that incredible interception just before the half in this year’s Wild Card game in Houston.
A likely scenario is that Williams is resigned to a single year contract. Livings is released. McGlynn is safe because he also doubles as back-up for Kyle Cook at Center. Boling and Hudson might end up starting eventually, but I get the feeling that Jay Gruden hasn’t seen enough to feel completely comfortable here. If left as is, the Bengals may still be okay with their Offensive Line, but they’d be paper thin on the depth chart.
Unless something surprises me with free agency, I think the Draft has to be the answer here. While Carl Nicks (Saints) and Ben Grubbs (Ravens) are the two best free agents available, it’s unlikely that either is going to want to leave their teams, and both are due heavy contracts that would have to be matched. No one else really jumps out as worth the effort; Mike Brisiel (Texans) is penalty prone – something the Bengals really don’t need more of – and the pair from Buffalo, Chad Rinehart and Kraig Urbik, are both Restrict Free Agents, which would cost too much to acquire in the long run. Lastly, all these guys are in their late 20’s. It would behoove the Bengals to continue to add youth to their young corps.
But they’ve also got to add the ability to start right away. A best case would be David DeCastro (Stanford), but he is going to have to fall past some other guard hungry teams, namely Arizona, Dallas, and Kansas City. Additionally, Cincinnati would have to sew him up with their first overall pick; the chance of Tennessee nabbing him just before the Bengals pick again at 21 would be too great. Another name that is getting a lot of hype is Cordy Glenn (Georgia). My feeling here is that while he was clearly a mauler in college, he appears to be a duplicate of Clint Boling, who played across from Glenn in the same system. If DeCastro is off the board and Glenn is your top option, then I’d seriously considered waiting a pick and make a play for Kelechi Osemele (Iowa). Likened to a young Michael Oher, Osemele might be the hedged-bet gamble of the Draft for the Bengals, possibly even being available in the second round. Easily able to play from day one, Zimmer may have to keep his thumb on this one in order keep him from being a Haynesworth-esque bust.
But if all else fails there is still Evan Mathis. Yes, the lost Bengal is also a free agent this year. I’d welcome him back, but something tells me Mike Brown’s pride might not.