Free agency will be here before we know it and the Cincinnati Bengals have 19 players hitting the market this spring. Not all of them are UFAs, of course, but big names such as D.J. Reader, Jonah Williams, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd will all be free to sign elsewhere unless Cincinnati slaps the franchise tag on one of them.
Let's take a look at two Bengals free agents who have massively upped their stock and should reap the benefits this spring when they get paid.
It's been a rollercoaster of a career for Jonah Williams who the Bengals drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Williams missed his entire rookie year due to injury and then missed another six games the following year. He needed to have a big third season or he'd have been slapped with that dreaded bust label.
Williams ended up playing well in 2021 and as a result, the Bengals picked up his fifth-year option. That ended up looking bad one year later, as Williams played terribly in 2022, allowing a league-high 12 sacks. His poor play prompted the Bengals to seek out Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency and Williams was moved to right tackle.
While Williams was initially unable with how everything went down, he's played better this season. As of this writing, PFF has given him a grade of 59.7 and his pass-blocking and run-blocking grades are right around the same grade (57.7 and 57.2 respectively) .
Williams should benefit from his improved play this season and get a nice payday in the spring. Spotrac has his market value at five years worth $74.6 million with an annual salary of $14.9 million. I'm not sure the Bengals will end up giving him that kind of money and it's not entirely crazy to think a team might give him more if they're desperate enough.
People might laugh at this one but hear me out -- Drew Sample is a great blocking tight end and has shown that he can step up and catch passes when called upon. This season he's managed to work his way back into the TE1 spot after Irv Smith Jr. disappointed and he has a career-high two touchdowns, as of this writing.
Good tight ends are hard to find and there just might be a team out there that's willing to pay Sample a handsome amount of money to help protect their quarterback and occasionally catch some touchdowns.