What to do with Cincinnati Bengals’ 2018 free agents

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 8: Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals and Pat Sims #92 of the Cincinnati Bengals attempt to tackle LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 8: Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals and Pat Sims #92 of the Cincinnati Bengals attempt to tackle LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals finished the season on a little bit of a high. The team knocked the Detroit Lions and the Baltimore Ravens out of the playoff hunt and went on to finish 7-9 for the season. However, the Bengals failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season and now prepare for another offseason.

The Bengals have recently made moves that most Bengals fans probably are not too happy about. Cincinnati gave Marvin Lewis a two-year extension that allows the NFL’s second-longest tenured head coach to stay in the Queen City through 2019.

Lewis has also decided to keep Bill Lazor as the offensive coordinator while Paul Guenther will most likely head over to become the new DC in Oakland.

Regardless, Cincinnati fans are stuck with Marvin Lewis at the helm. So, let’s make the best of it. The Bengals currently have 10 players ready to hit free agency in the next couple months. And with that being said, which Bengals deserve to come back and which Bengals deserve to walk?

Let them walk

Jeremy Hill

First, Hill should’ve been traded during the season. The former LSU product was benched in favor of Joe Mixon when Lazor took over the play-calling duties and was later placed on IR after undergoing season-ending surgery.

Hill currently leaves a bad taste in most Who Dey fans mouths. And while a lot of it is his fault, last season was definitely not. Hill hasn’t been able to recapture his magic since his rookie season and because of his underperformance, it has caused him to spend some time on the bench while Bengals fans call for more Giovani Bernard and Mixon. Seriously, I think even some fans were calling for BenJarvus Green-Ellis to come back.

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To be honest, Hill shouldn’t be re-signed. Frankly, the fans and franchise has moved on. The future is Mixon. That was obvious when Lazor started Mixon over Bernard and Hill. Also, it’s just unnecessary. Hill is a starting or a RB2 somewhere and the Bengals are already set with Mixon and Bernard. It’s time to let him go. It’s best for all parties.

Russell Bodine & Eric Winston 

If it wasn’t time to move on before, is it finally time now? I think so. Listen, there wasn’t anything good you could say about how the offensive line played last year. This offseason for the Bengals needs to include a big overhaul.

Even when the Bengals had one of the top offensive lines in the league, Bodine was the piece that held it down–and not in a good way. Bodine was one of the weakest links and Winston, frankly, just holds up a roster spot. The Bengals need a makeover badly. The key to success, with this team, is the offensive line. Cincinnati has all the weapons needed to get back to the playoffs. The offensive line just needs to get better.

A few years ago, the Bengals drafted Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi in the first and second round. I’m still a little mad about that. But, if the Bengals were to do some crazy draft day trading, ended up with multiple first-round picks and only selected offensive lineman, I wouldn’t even be mad…as long as they were all studs. Let’s channel that inner Dallas Cowboy and draft GOOD offensive linemen this year.

On the fence

Cedric Peerman 

Peerman is a special team ace but only played in six games last year. He eventually landed on the IR and is now 31-years old. While Peerman has done great things in Cincinnati, it might be time for the Bengals to move on. Although, if Cincinnati does bring him back, no one will be angry. Special teams is a key piece of the game and Peerman does it better than most people in the league.

Pat Sims

Personally, Sims has always been one of my favorite Bengals. He’s not flashy nor is he Geno Atkins, but Sims does his job better than most in the NFL. He fills holes, takes on double teams and allows Atkins to get one-on-ones. And how much do Bengals fans love when Atkins is one-on-one?

Sims is currently 32-years-old and with the youth of Andrew Billings and DeShawn Williams behind him, you can understand why Cincinnati could move on. But, at the same time, Cincinnati could definitely keep him. Sims is cheap and provides good production.

Gronk 2.0?

Tyler Eifert 

Yes, Eifert is on the fence. Throughout his entire career, he’s been injured. He’s played one real season in 2015 and looked like the best tight end not named Gronkowski and that’s why we’re even having this discussion. Eifert can be so good if he just stays on the field. But, he can’t.

Since Eifert is never able to actually play, he’s provided an opportunity for Tyler Kroft to prove his worth. Kroft, shockingly, played really well this season, catching 42 passes for 404 yards and seven touchdowns. And, man, he had some really good catches. Kroft played well but he’s no Eifert. The Bengals will most likely bring Eifert back on a short-term deal. But, will he ever really turn into the player we know he can be?

Andre Smith 

Smith was once a valuable piece of the Bengals’ offense. Smith and Andrew Whitworth were the stables of that old line Bengals fans loved so much. He allowed the Bengals front office to build through the draft which ultimately saw the Bengals select Bodine, Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler. Oh, how I miss the days.

Anyway, fast forward some years and Smith may not be as good as he used to be. But, he might be the best thing the Bengals have right now. At the very least, he’s a solid backup.

Kevin Minter 

Minter hasn’t done much this season. So, it’s hard to say whether the Bengals should bring him back or not. Minter seemed like a great pick up when the Bengals initially signed him, but the Bengals didn’t use him to the best of his ability.

If the Bengals wanted to go in a different direction, whether that be cheaper, older or younger, there’s certainly a market for it. With a new defensive coordinator taking control in Cincinnati, the Bengals’ defense could see some former players walk.

Bring them back

Kevin Huber 

This is as simple as it gets. Bring Huber back. He has been one of the best punters in the league for multiple years. Punting is so important in this league. and if the Bengals were to let him walk, it would be hard to get a player of his caliber again.

We have already seen that the Bengals don’t make the best choices when it comes to kicking. They let Jake Elliot walk in favor of Randy Bullock. Hopefully, they get this one right and bring back Huber.

Chris Smith 

Cincinnati ranked right outside of the top 10 this year in total sacks. Coming in ranked 11th, with 41 sacks, was a pretty good season for the defensive line. Atkins led the team with 9.0 while Carl Lawson led all rookie with 8.5. Carlos Dunlap finished with 7.5 and Michal Johnson finished with 5.

Extra bodies

The reason Cincy was so successful this year is the depth the defensive line possesses. Sims, Jordan Willis and Smith allowed the Bengals to give their premier pass rushers rest so they could get after the quarterback. Smith, Willis and Sims not only gave the starters rest, but they also maintained the same level of production.

Letting Smith walk would not be smart for the Bengals. It would hurt the team’s ability to properly rotate. And with Michael Johnson nearing the end of his contract,  Smith could be a very important piece for the line, moving forward.

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There are certainly some decisions to make for the future. But, most of these players don’t necessarily need to come back. After missing the playoffs two years in a row, it’s time to shake some things up. Huber and Smith are certainly priorities. Yet, the Bengals can replace everyone else through free agency and the draft. Let’s hope the front office makes the right decisions.