Feb 19, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coachMarvin Lewis
speaks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tick tock, March 10th is staring back at the Cincinnati Bengals like a hung over, unshaven face in a motel bathroom mirror. March 10th at 4pm EST marks the first time in the 2015 season any NFL team has the opportunity to make a run at Super Bowl 50. A day that symbolizes the true beginning of the 2015 NFL season and open season on free agents and released veterans. The Bengals fell short of their 2014 expectations and they need some kind of a spark, excitement even, for the 2015 campaign.
Saying all that is easy, but, for a moment, let’s put things into perspective for a moment. Despite injuries at almost every position, the 2014 Cincinnati Bengals won 10 games, earned a wild card spot, and did so without any notable free agent signings. The Bengals stay notoriously quiet during free agency while teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were very active during the 2014 free agency, even signing both Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins away from the Bengals, earned the right to draft first this year given their 2-14 record.
This year, the Bengals again have a few notable free agents of their own. These include left guard Clint Boling, tight end Jermaine Gresham, and linebacker Rey Maualuga . This is where the upgrade/downgrade game comes into play. If the Bengals re-sign their free agents, are they upgrading that position with an extended contract, or are they downgrading? For example, the Bengals need to either move on from Rey Maualuga or re-sign him. The Green Bay Packers just released linebacker A.J. Hawk, a Centerville, Ohio native, and a player who has the most tackles in Packers history, and knows what it means to win a Super Bowl. If Hawk commands similar interest to that of Maualuga, should they sign A.J. Hawk, or the familiar Rey Maualuga?
The bottom line is, the free agency clock can either be a team’s best friend, or the Tick Tock Croc to Captain Hook. The Bengals cannot possibly address all of their needs solely via the draft. The Bengals need help on defensive line, with the linebacking core, at tight end, in the wide receiving room, and along the offensive line. Rookies at these positions are rarely major impact players, so bringing in a few veterans to sweeten the pot is what the Bengals are in desperate need of this offseason. Tick tock, the clock ticks to free agency, and with the Bengals at an estimated $35,000,000.00 under the cap, they have room to wiggle and build their championship contending team.
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