The Cincinnati Bengals have 19 players set to hit free agency with 14 of those free agents becoming UFA's (unrestricted free agents). When the 2023 season began, it's safe to say that the majority of fans would have predicted the two players I'm going to discuss here as likely departures in the offseason.
After 13 weeks of play, however, could that have changed for the Bengals? Have these two guys done enough that the Bengals would consider bringing them back in 2024 and potentially beyond? Would either of these players be interested in coming back to Cincinnati?
Let's discuss who these two players in question are and why a new contract might not be the craziest thing in the world.
If you had told Bengals fans a year ago that the team might want to re-sign Williams when his rookie deal expired, a lot of people probably would have laughed and said "Yeah right". Well, after a move to the right tackle spot on the o-line, Williams has played better.
Williams has a PFF grade of 62.8 and his run-blocking grade is much better than it was a year ago (58.6 this year vs. 49.9 last year). He has allowed seven sacks (tied for the fourth-most in the league), which was his biggest problem a season ago.
That being said, Williams has played pretty well at right tackle and could finally give the Bengals a long-term option at the position. The problem with re-signing him, however, is that he's not going to come cheap. Spotrac projects that Williams will earn a five-year deal worth $74.6 million with an annual salary of $14.9 million. The Bengals probably aren't giving him that much money.
Another reason why re-signing Williams never really seemed to be in the cards was the way his move to right tackle was handled. As we all know, the Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr. to be their new left tackle and that meant Williams was now left without a position. He had asked the front office to trade him but that obviously didn't happen.
Williams spoke about the drama before the season began and said that he was upset that no one had told him the team was planning to sign Brown. Would he want to re-sign with a team that left him in the dark about something so important?
All of this being said, Williams has performed well this season and if the Bengals value their right tackle position, perhaps they'll make a deal for their former first-round pick happen.
When Sample hit free agency last year, not many people were clamoring for the Bengals to re-sign him. After all, he was selected in the second round of the 2019 draft and never lived up to the hype of a second-round pick. Sample worked out with the Cardinals last offseason before the Bengals swooped in and brought him back to the Queen City.
Sample might not be a scary pass-catching tight end but he's an excellent blocker. He's also stepped up and caught some critical passes for the Bengals this season so pairing him with Tanner Hudson moving forward isn't a bad move. Sample has 12 catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns through 12 games this season.
Sample probably isn't going to command a lot of money on the free-agent market so why shouldn't the Bengals bring hm back on an affordable deal? This isn't something that Bengals fans were probably expecting not long ago but Sample is worth keeping on the roster if for no other reason than his blocking abilities.