2012 NFL Free Agents: For the Cincinnati Bengals, Free Agency Starts at Home

Tom BrewerCorrespondent IIFebruary 20, 2012

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 29:  Jonathan Fanene #68 of the Cincinnati Bengals gestures during the NFL game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on November 29, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With NFL free agency upon us, Cincinnati Bengals fans are salivating over the possibilities of upgrades at skill positions. While it is exciting to play fantasy GM with an actual team, Cincinnati must first re-sign some of the 2011 roster.

To build a sturdy house or a winning team, one must start with a solid foundation. Now is the time to lay the concrete—not to be distracted by all the colors with which you might paint the walls.

Before we start wondering about when the team will make a play for Oakland running back Michael Bush, let's hope they ink a deal with Jonathan Fanene. The seven-year defensive tackle out of Utah had 24 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Those are not overwhelming numbers, but he was a vital part of Mike Zimmer's defensive line rotation and is an emotional leader on the Bengals’ D.

Many Bengals fans want the team to chase a wideout in free agency, but before we let our imaginations run wild about Reggie Wayne or Mike Wallace lining up opposite A.J. Green, the team needs to take care of Manny Lawson. Lawson provides a veteran presence to guide a young pack of linebackers, and although 2012 will be his seventh year in the league, he shows no signs of slowing down; Lawson racked up 52 tackles and was a stalwart run-stopper last season.

The Bengals also need to take care of a couple offensive free agents before they look outside of their locker room.

Offensive linemen Bobbie Williams and Anthony Collins need to be back in the orange and black in 2012. Collins is a serviceable backup and can fill in for either Andrew Whitworth or Andre Smith if need be. Williams is no spring chicken, but there is no denying the Bengals' running game was better with him in the trenches. Jay Gruden is building an offensive machine, and the team needs Williams and Collins to keep that machine running in 2012.

The good news for Bengals fans is the team has plenty about $60 million in cap space to play with. The team is in excellent position to take care of their key players and make a wave or two in free agency. If Mike Brown and the Cincinnati brass are creative and savvy enough, they can reinforce the foundation and paint the walls, too.