Bengals free agency primer: Targets, timeline, returning players & everything else

Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals
Miami Dolphins v Cincinnati Bengals / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Bengals have some difficult decisions to make this off-season when it comes to free agency. There are going to be some key departures but there will hopefully be key signings as well.

Cincinnati came just up just short of reaching their second straight Super Bowl with a 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game at the end of January. In a year that felt like it belonged to the Bengals, their loss was shocking and now they've had to enter their offseason mode earlier than we all had hoped.

When does NFL free agency start?

Wednesday, March 15th at 4:00 EST is when free agency officially gets underway.

What’s the ‘legal tampering’ period?

The CBA allows pending free agents to speak with other teams on Monday, March 13th. Bengals fans will remember last year when the team immediately came to terms with Alex Cappa minutes into the 'legal tampering' period. They also agreed to terms with Ted Karras several hours later.

How much salary-cap space do the Bengals have?

According to Over the Cap, the Bengals have $35,673,058 in salary cap space, giving them the fifth-most in the league. This is a good spot for them to be in considering they need to extend Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson while also needing to re-sign key guys like Vonn Bell, Hayden Hurst, and Germaine Pratt.

Who are the Bengals players hitting NFL free agency?

The Bengals have 19 players set to hit free agency, including 15 unrestricted free agents.

Bengals unrestricted free agents

These 15 players are free to sign with whoever they want as long as the Bengals don't slap one of them with the franchise tag.

  • Brandon Allen
  • Eli Apple
  • Jessie Bates
  • Vonn Bell
  • Jalen Davis
  • Tre Flowers
  • Clark Harris
  • Hayden Hurst
  • Samaje Perine
  • Germaine Pratt
  • Drew Sample
  • Max Scharping
  • Trent Taylor
  • Michael Thomas
  • Trayveon Williams

Bengals restricted free agents

The lone restricted free agent can be signed by another team but the Bengals have a chance to match that contract.

  • Joe Bachie

Bengals exclusive-rights free agents

The Bengals have the rights to these three players.

  • Cal Adomitis
  • Clay Johnston
  • Mitchell Wilcox

Which pending Bengals free agents will return to Cincinnati?

The three ERFAs and one RFA will be back but what about the pending 15 free agents? Out of that group, there are no certainties but I'll predict that Allen, Apple, Bell, Davis, Perine, Thomas, and Williams will be re-signed. I also could see either Hurst or Pratt being re-signed but probably not both.

The only player that I'm near certain won't be back is Bates. The writing has been on the walls there for nearly a year.

Which free agents should the Bengals target?

The Bengals need to address their offensive line once again, more specifically the tackle spots. Some of the top tackle names in free agency include Orlando Brown Jr., Mike McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor, Kaleb McGary, and Isaiah Wynn.

dark. Next. Every Bengals Player Hitting Free Agency in 2023

Cincinnati also needs help in the pass-rushing department and need to fine-tune their secondary as well. The best pass-rushing names available are Javon Hargrave, Daron Payne, Dalvin Tomlinson, Marcus Davenport, and Dre'mont Jones. The best players available in the secondary are Jamel Dean, James Bradberry, Jordan Poyer, Cameron Sutton, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.