The Cincinnati Bengals under Marvin Lewis are known for approaching NFL free agency by first taking care of their own, so it should come as no surprise the team has re-upped with guard Mike Pollak and may be in talks with names like Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Vontaze Burfict and Domata Peko.
After extending tenders to receivers Andrew Hawkins and Dane Sanzenbacher and linebacker Vincent Rey, the Bengals got a deal done with Pollak in order to short up the interior of the offensive line according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com:
Agent Ken Zuckerman said he had an agreement with the club, which has yet to be finalized with the signed paperwork. Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reported a three-year agreement.
“I don’t think there’s any question there would have been a market for Mike, but he felt really comfortable playing for Paul,” said Zuckerman of Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander. “He likes the fit and Paul’s approach and is happy about going back there.”
While a small move, Pollak’s re-up with the team is a big deal for the team as it moves forward. Starters Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler are still in place, but both suffered injuries last year that forced left tackle Andrew Whitworth inside. Pollak’s time in spot duty for the injured is what earned him the new contract, according to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports:
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) March 7, 2014
This move insulates the Bengals from further injuries, but does not prevent the team from exploring the guards available both on the market or in the draft — or even keeping Whitworth inside if the team drafts a tackle high or brings back Anthony Collins.
But the biggest move of all as free agency approaches is the Bengals talking to their own about extensions. Fans knew it was going to happen at one point or another, but it appears Cincinnati is on the ball in this regard. According to Hobson, the team is talking with several important players:
It’s believed they’ve reached out to at least start conversations with several extension candidates that could range anywhere from Dalton and Green to Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict to defensive tackle Domata Peko.
The only real surprise here is a potential extension for Peko, who enters the final year of his deal as seemingly a favorite by many to lose his job this offseason as a cap casualty. That makes a bit of sense, but at the same time the team cannot lose his productivity against the run, his leadership and simply hand over a starting role to questions marks like Brandon Thompson and Devon Still.
An extension for Peko is a safe move and fits well with the habits of the franchise over the years. As long as it is incentive based to keep the overall cost down, fans should be on board with the move.
Dalton may be a bit of a surprise for some, but remember that an extension does not mean the franchise is stuck with him as a starter. The team can get a deal done now at a fair cost with escalators wired into it, and if he fails it will still be a reasonable cost to cut him down the road or have him as a backup. Heck, if he statistically improves again the team will already have a deal done rather than paying even more next offseason.
The talks with Green and Burfict are obvious. Green absolutely has to get done, while Burfict may be even more important from a financial sense so that the team can set the price now rather than letting the market bully them into a big number when guys like Luke Kuechly re-shape the cost in a few years.
Stay tuned — the Bengals news is just getting started with free agency around the corner.