Jermaine Gresham Could Influence Bengals Free Agency
Jermaine Gresham‘s exit from Cincinnati seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. The team’s frustration with the five-year Bengal seems to be at an all-time high after a season that was largely disappointing.
Gresham has been labeled as unreliable at this point. He offers a unique combination of size and athleticism, which demands intrigue, but has struggled to “put it all together.” In the past, Gresham struggled with drops and penalties. His gaffes during the playoffs emphasized the lack of refinement and focus in his game.
This past season, Gresham largely got over these issues while being asked to be a key blocker within a burgeoning run game. But new issues have now cropped up. This past season, Gresham frustrated the Bengals with his inability or unwillingness to play through injury, especially when missing the team’s playoff game this year.
His year was also disappointing from a receiving standpoint, an area where Gresham excelled in the past. Despite the rash of injuries to the Bengals’ receiving options (Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones, A.J. Green), Gresham was unable to reclaim his past form finishing the year with 62 receptions, but only 460 yards. Some of this can and should be attributed to Andy Dalton and the design of the offense, but regardless, in the opinion of many is he simply hasn’t done enough across his career to justify his place on this team. But whether Jermaine Gresham re-signs with Cincinnati or not, his level of success in free agency may influence the Bengals course of action going forward.
The Bengals have preferred in recent years to build their team via the draft. Marvin Lewis has already suggested this off-season that the team’s approach to free agency will be different in 2015, but old habits die hard, especially when given an incentive to continue in typical fashion.
Last year, many fans were calling for the team to make improvements via free agency. The Bengals chose otherwise with the idea that Michael Johnson‘s and Anthony Collins‘ lucrative exits from Cincinnati would bring them building blocks 2015 in the form of compensatory selections: Johnson will likely land the team a third rounder while Collins’ should give the Bengals a fourth or fifth rounder.
This year, the Bengals could be similarly enticed to continue their ways if Gresham finds success in the free agent market. His performance may not have been great lately, but the promise he offers is great enough that a team could fall in love with the potential game-changer; Gresham is only 26 (27 this year) and three years removed form a stellar season (64 catches, 737 yards, 5 touchdowns).
More than this, his lack of production lately could easily be attributed to the Bengals more than Gresham who invested in plenty of receiving weapons in the past couple of seasons (Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert, and James Wright). If one team falls for the likable Gresham, there’s no telling what he could earn; the NFL only continues to value tight ends with great size, athleticism, and receiving prowess.
The Bengals don’t have a significant number of free agents this year, but they do have some potentially enticing ones. Left guard Clint Boling, linebacker Rey Maualuga, and Gresham could all demand relatively lucrative deals. Although the team will look to re-sign Boling and Maualuga, their potential exits could effect the team in a similar way to the one herein suggested. But with Gresham seemingly “long gone,” it’s he who may most significantly influence the Bengals’ free agency plans.
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