Taking a Closer Look at the Cincinnati Bengals' Biggest 2013 Free Agents
The Cincinnati Bengals don't have an overwhelming number of current players set to be unrestricted or restricted free agents in 2013, and with owner Mike Brown notoriously stingy with his money, if players about to walk are viewed as important enough, it's likely they could come up with the cash to pay them, as long as Brown is willing to spend it.
But, if history is any indication, certain useful free agents will move on to greener pastures (and more green in their pockets) without action by the team. Here are the biggest names for the Bengals who are headed into free agency in 2013 and whether or not the team is likely to retain them.
RT Andre Smith (UFA)
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Surprisingly enough, the Cincinnati Bengals don't have an exceptional amount of depth on their offensive line, and the injuries they did suffer on the line this year—at center, with Kyle Cook going down in the preseason and the team signing Jeff Faine to replace him before ultimately finding rookie Trevor Robinson a better fit (though Cook has seen time since his return)—didn't negatively impact their season.
However, the Bengals cannot assume they'll be as lucky in the future. Further, they cannot afford to lose a starting right tackle of Andre Smith's caliber, injury concerns or no. Right tackles, after all, don't grow on trees, and the Bengals don't need to spend a first-round draft pick on one if they can keep Smith in the fold.
Though Smith has given up seven quarterback sacks, two hits and 24 hurries, he's still been in the plus category in both run- and pass-blocking. Behind him on the depth chart is only Dennis Roland, who had just 107 total snaps in 2012. Smith is experienced, has a first-round pedigree and has missed no games this year. He's worth keeping.
CBs Adam Jones (UFA) and Terence Newman (UFA)
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The Bengals aren't hurting when it comes to cornerback depth, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't work hard to retain two of their better cornerbacks who are headed for free agency this year.
We've seen the resurgence of Adam Jones both on defense and special teams, and it should have more than earned him additional time in Cincinnati. In 608 snaps this year, Jones has been thrown to 66 times, with 36 passes connecting with their intended targets. Though he had no interceptions in 2012, he did only give up two touchdowns and successfully defended two passes. He was also an excellent punt returner, with 26 returns for 301 yards and a touchdown.
Newman was even more effective at corner, playing 878 snaps and allowing just 56.5 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be caught. He gave up three touchdowns and had two interceptions and eight defensed passes.
With Newman and Jones in the fold starting alongside Leon Hall, the Bengals don't have to worry about Dre Kirkpatrick's progress and, at the very least, have high-caliber depth behind the 2012 first-round pick.
DEs Robert Geathers (UFA), Wallace Gilberry (UFA) and Michael Johnson (UFA)
There are two secrets to the Cincinnati Bengals' success on defensive line—one is defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the best player at his position in the league, and the other is the rotational approach they take with the line.
Though this has been a more stable sort of rotation this year, there have been roles in which certain players are better-suited, and that's illustrated best by their use of defensive ends Robert Geathers, Wallace Gilberry and Michael Johnson.
All three split snaps between pass rush and run defense, as makes sense for 4-3 defensive ends, with all three men having more time as pass-rushers than run-stoppers. Johnson had the most playing time of any member of the line, with 870 total snaps—312 against the run, 534 in pass rush and 24 in coverage.
The result has been 52 total tackles, 11.5 sacks (the second-most on the team), an interception and a fumble recovery. Johnson cannot be easily replaced, even with the great number of pass-rush specialists entering this year's draft. He must be retained.
The same can also be said for Geathers and Gilberry. Geathers has three sacks, while Gilberry, who has played only 316 snaps, has 6.5 sacks to his name, as well as a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Though there may be some push for the Bengals to get younger on the defensive line, that doesn't provide a strong enough argument for them letting any of these proven veterans walk. This is the best defensive line in the league for a reason, and it would be better if it remains intact.