The Cincinnati Bengals won’t be able to keep every free agent from leaving, but their will be some key players to bring back in 2016.
Going into 2015, the Cincinnati Bengals knew at the end of the year, free agency was going to be an enormous battle. The Bengals have made the right decisions over the past few years in free agency, and their past several draft classes have been stellar. The best question going into the offseason is who should the Bengals try to re-sign, and who can they afford to lose.
After the wild card round disaster that was, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis told the press, “We’ve had more free agents in other years. When I looked, it wasn’t as many as I expected, so I do feel good about things. I think the core is here, I think positionally we’re in good shape.”
Even with that kind of optimism, the Bengals are fighting an uphill battle with 14 unrestricted free agents whose 2015 salaries totaled $36,252,313.00. Somewhere in all of that money and all of those players, are a few that are going to get away.
To know how much to spend on whom, the Bengals need to definitively say whom they are going actively pursue, and who is leaving the orange and black. At the top of the salary hit, is 31 year old veteran, going into his 10th year, Leon Hall. Hall made $9.6 million in 2015, and might be a guy the Bengals try to move on from. Even if Hall would agree to taking less, a deal that would be the most beneficial for the Bengals will probably not interest Hall.
Also near the top of this list is Pro-Bowl safety Reggie Nelson. Nelson, who registered a career high 8 interceptions in 2015, arguably outplayed his $4.775 million dollar deal in 2015, and may demand more in Cincinnati. With Nelson and George Iloka both free agents, the Bengals need to decide this, and decide this quickly as not to lose one or the other.
Near the bottom of the salary list, making the end of his 5th round rookie contract is wide receiver Marvin Jones. Jones was a bargain for the Bengals last season making $700,700. He will certainly demand much more from the Bengals if not somewhere else. One train of thought is the Bengals will not be able to offer the kind of money Jones might be paid elsewhere, and Jones moves on to, say, Cleveland to follow new head coach Hue Jackson.
Regardless of what they ultimately decide, the list of unrestricted free agents is extensive. This includes Leon Hall, Andre Smith, Reggie Nelson, Vinnie Rey, Adam Jones, Emmanuel Lamur, Wallace Gilberry, Mohamed Sanu, George Iloka, Eric Winston, Brandon Thompson, Marvin Jones, Brandon Tate and Pat Sims.
It is most important for Bengals fans to realize they can’t keep everyone, but also important to realize there is still a draft this year, and they are stacked for the next few years.