Why James Casey Should Be A Top Free Agent Priority for Bengals


As of about a week ago, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to release veteran TE/HB James Casey.  Since this time, James Casey has been making his way around the NFL, weighing his options for the next place he’ll suit up.  Those stops include Tennessee, Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville, Washington, Arizona, and now Cincinnati.

And the stops won’t likely end there.  James Casey seems to be looking for a home where he’ll get an opportunity to play tight end rather than be relegated to a reserve role.  The Bengals can offer Casey both this and the money he’ll seek as the team has plenty of available cap space heading into 2015.  But it’s the needs of Cincinnati that means James Casey should be a top free agent priority for the team.

As James Casey hits the market, it just so happens that the Bengals are in need of a quality tight end.  Longtime tight end Jermaine Gresham is likely on his way out of Cincinnati, meaning the team must replace him.  James Casey has always proven to be a capable tight end when called upon.  The problem has been at each of his two previous stops, Houston and Philadelphia, is that each team invested in another receiving/tight end option rather than give Casey an increased role (DeAndre Hopkins and Zach Ertz respectively).  Casey’s best year as a tight end came in 2012 with Houston when he posted 34 receptions (45 targets), 330 yards, and three touchdowns.

On offense, James Casey also possesses experience as a FB/HB.  He’s manned this position over his career with both Houston and Philadelphia and has done well as a blocker.  His ability to be moved around on offense would give the Bengals another versatile option on offense as well as a reliable target for Andy Dalton.  Casey’s presence would help the Bengals fill the hole that Gresham will leave behind.

But James Casey’s impact for the Bengals wouldn’t stop there.  He has great special teams prowess and actually led the NFL in snaps last season (439) while collecting nine tackles.  This ability would be of great value to the Bengals as special teams captain Cedric Peerman is currently a free agent himself.

Retaining Peerman, which remains an option, would keep the Bengals from promoting a promising running back, Rex Burkhead, to the game day active roster; he spent the entirety of the last two year’s on the 53-man roster, but was often listed as “inactive” on game days.

Burkhead’s promotion is justified following his 2014 performance.  Although Peerman has been a great player for the Bengals, keeping a talent like Burkhead on the bench simply isn’t a good idea; not to mention, Burkhead has displayed his own special teams ability when blocking a punt last year against the Jaguars, so the Bengals wouldn’t be losing special teams production from the running back position altogether.

One final point here regarding signing James Casey is the compensatory picks formula heading into the off-season.  Early this off-season it was noted that Jermaine Gresham could influence the Bengals free agency plans even if he isn’t retained by Cincinnati.  This is because his exit could eventually lead to a compensatory selection in 2016, and the same goes for players like Clint Boling and Rey Maualuga if they choose to leave Cincinnati themselves.

Compensatory selections are granted to teams based on the free agents they lost from the previous season (and a largely unknown formula).  Players who are signed in free agency also contribute to the formula; it’s why the Bengals avoided signing free agents during the 2014 off-season, knowing they’d receive compensatory selections for Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins.

The key here regarding James Casey is that players who were cut by their former teams do not affect the compensatory selection formula.  This means if the Bengals sign Casey, who was cut by the Eagles, he acquisition would not effect Cincinnati’s chances of gaining a compensatory selection due to the departures of their own free agents.  It’s yet another benefit of signing Casey.

The Bengals can provide James Casey both with the opportunity he seeks (and deserves) and the money he’ll command.  In return, Casey can fill a hole at the linebacker position while simultaneously accounting for the loss of Cedric Peerman, which would allow Rex Burkhead to be promoted, all while not effecting the team’s chances of gaining a selection in the 2016 draft.

Considering this, the Bengals would win at tight end, running back, on special teams, and possibly during the 2016 draft if they were to sign James Casey.  It certainly seems the team ought to be placing a huge emphasis on his acquisition this off-season.

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