Picking what the Bengals are going to do in Free Agency is a crap shoot at best. The Bengals will be in good shape cap wise with the salary cap expected to rise another $10 million or more this year; this will put the Bengals in a position to re-sign some of their free agents. Estimates put the NFL salary cap at approximately at $168 million, which means the Bengals would have the 12th most cap space in the league at $47,934,588.
Andrew Whitworth, Left Tackle
Whitworth is almost a must for the Bengals, I know he is a little long in the tooth, but he still grades out as a top 5 tackle in the league. The big question is what are the teams, options if the Bengals don’t re-sign him?
Kevin Zeitler, Right Guard
Zeitler was named second team right guard by Pro Football Focus; he had a rough season sandwiched in between Cedric Ogbuehi and Russell Bodine, which makes his production even more surprising. Steelers guard David DeCastro resigned for five years 50 Million dollars in October. My fear is the Bengals will not be willing to pay him that kind of money. Hopefully, he stays, but I don’t see it.
Domata Peko, Defensive Tackle
Peko is getting up there in years, and with last years fourth round pick Andrew Billings healthy, it looks like Peko may be done here. Peko loves Cincinnati and may stay if he takes a lot less money, but I don’t see it.
Brandon LaFell, Wide Receiver
LaFell had a rough start to the season but was very productive over the last half of the season. LaFell gives the Bengals a veteran receiver, and with Boyd and Core on board, this could be an excellent receiver corps next year.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Corner Back
Kirkpatrick has not lived up to expectations so far in his career, but he did show improvement this year. With a Rookie in William Jackson, Denard and an aging Adam Jones I think the Bengals will try to keep Dre.
Karlos Dansby, Linebacker
Dansby is long in the tooth, and this year I think that showed. He had a tough time covering passes from the linebacker position.
Eric Winston, Offensive Tackle
Winston doesn’t cost a lot of money, and he is a solid player, he will be back.
Margus Hunt, Defensive End
Hunt got a fair amount of playing time this year and had a whopping 17 tackles. When you throw in his zero sacks over the last two years, you will find no the Bengals swung and missed on this pick big time! This experiment should have been over at least after last year.
Wallace Gilberry, Defensive Line
Gillberry to me is a solid player who doesn’t cost a lot of money. I wish they would resign him, but I don’t think they will. Don’t be surprised if he returns during next season, though.
Brandon Thompson, Defensive Tackle
More often injured than not, he is coming off a torn ACL and did not play last year,
Chykie Brown, Cornerback
Mainly a special teams player, he had two tackles last year.
Randy Bullock, Kicker
Open competition at kicker, Bullock will not last.
Rex Burkhead, Running Back
Burkhead does whatever is asked of him and most importantly he does it well. They need to resign Burkhead, but these are the Bengals so that I won’t hold my breath.
In closing, the Bengals have plenty of room under the salary cap to resign Zeitler, Whitworth, LaFell and Burkhead and they will still be well under the cap. They need all four players, but they especially need Whitworth and Zeitler back. The offensive line play was terrible this year, and they were the only two bright spots. Bodine and Ogbuehi were atrocious, and Clint Boiling played injured most of the year, they cannot afford to let Whitworth and Zeitler get away. Of course, the Bengals will be screwed on the offensive line as long as they have Paul Alexander coaching the line. His continued inability to either select the right lineman to draft or his failure to coach them is killing this teams window of opportunity, which is closing rapidly.