Poll: How Should Bengals Tackle Emmanuel Lamur’s Free Agency?
Oct 26, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (59) intercepts a pass intended for Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith (82) during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
This off-season, the Cincinnati Bengals will be faced with several free agent decisions, but only a few of their free agents will carry “restricted” status. Emmanuel Lamur is one of these restricted free agents (RFA), and likely the only one who’ll command a tender from the Bengals (Devon Still, Chris Lewis-Harris (ERFA), and Tyler Hansen are the other RFAs).
Restricted free agency means the player’s original team has the right to match any offer presented to the player. Based on the rules of restricted free agency, teams can choose to tender a restricted free agent with a first round, second round, original round, or right to first refusal amount. If the Bengals were to place a first or second round tender on Lamur, this means a team looking to sign Lamur would have to surrender the specified selection to the Bengals in order to sign him; being assigned an original round tender would do nothing for the Bengals in Lamur’s case considering he came into the league as an undrafted free agent (UDFA).
When tendering a player, the sacrifice for the player’s original team, the Bengals in this case, is that each tender amount comes with a guaranteed amount of money the player would make if he were unable to demand a contract from another team. In 2014, those amount were $3.113 million for a first round tender, $2.187 million for a second round, the original round tender demanded $1.431 million, and the right of first refusal only required an investment of $1.323 million.
The concern over Emmanuel Lamur’s free agency stems from the Bengals botching of last year’s RFA Andrew Hawkins, and nearly that of Vincent Rey. Last year, the Bengals chose to place an original round tender on both Hawkins and Rey, but as both came to the NFL as UDFAs, no compensation would be given to the Bengals. This decision cost the team any chance of retaining Andrew Hawkins or at least getting something in return for him. Although it’s not a sure thing the Browns would’ve proceeded had the Bengals committed to the $2.187 rather than the $1.431, it’s certainly possible considering the contract Hawkins’ signed.
The Browns signed Hawkins to an offer sheet for $13.6 million over four seasons. This works out to an average salary of $3.4 million. Considering how much money the Browns chose to invest in Hawkins, is it possible they would’ve also made an offer on Hawkins if it would’ve cost them a second round selection? Not a sure thing, but certainly possible.
When the Bengals saw how much interest Hawkins drew, the quickly moved on re-signing Vincent Rey worrying he too may be lured away; Hawkins signed his offer sheet on March 13th, and the Bengals re-signed Rey two days later. Clearly the Bengals underestimated the interest these players would draw and lost Hawkins in the process. Considering it would’ve only required an additional $756 thousand to tender him at the second round level, and considering many pundits believe the team would like to add a speedy slot guy to the roster, it’s seemingly appropriate to view this as a misstep for the Bengals. In looking to avoid this error once more, how should the Bengals handle Emmanuel Lamur this year?
2014 wasn’t exactly a shining year for Emmanuel Lamur, but the year should be seen with some caveats. Lamur struggled without the presence of Vontaze Burfict. Lamur was asked to lead the group, essentially filling in for Burfict in this way, and struggled mightily with the assignment. Burfict’s absence also placed Lamur in a role that wasn’t best suited to him. These two realities didn’t help foster Lamur during his first year as a full-time starter.
Nonetheless, Lamur simply didn’t perform the way many would’ve hoped. As a converted linebacker (from safety), Lamur’s “bread and butter” was to be in coverage, yet he struggled often to counter tight ends and running backs. Maybe Lamur would’ve done better had this been his only assignment, but Burfict’s absence demanded more.
Justifying Lamur’s retention though is his promise. At only 25 years old (26 this year), Lamur’s best years are likely in front of him. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has commented on Lamur’s intelligence in the past, so with another full off-season of work, it’s highly possible that Guenther can work his linebacker magic once more with Lamur. More than this, Lamur showed flashes of his potential in 2014, and it just so happens that this often took place when Burfict was on the field. The point here is that some players may not be meant to be the leader, but this doesn’t mean Lamur can’t be a solid contributor as a role player.
Emmanuel Lamur’s situation is a difficult one. He won’t likely entice another team to spend a second round selection on his acquisition, but as an UDFA, teams would face no penalty when signing him if he’s labeled with an original round tender. The Bengals won’t want to spend any more money than they have to, but in this case, spending a little more to retain Lamur for the year may be worth it. Losing Lamur would further thin a position, which is already considered to be a need for the Bengals. They simply can’t afford this, especially when considering Vontaze Burfict is facing a difficult return from off-season microfracture surgery.