Cincinnati Bengals Offseason Predictions
The Bengals 2012 season looked bright in many spots, but we also saw plenty of holes that need to be filled. The Bengals did make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in over 20 years, which has ignited a dormant fan base in the Queen City.
The team is headed for the big time if they keep doing what they're doing, but the time is now to finally act on those wishes and continue to build a dominant football team.
Here are some predictions for the upcoming offseason, some of which could certainly come to fruition while others may not, thus predictions.
1. Franchise Tag Defensive End Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson is slowly becoming a wrecking ball on the defensive line and could soon become one of the elite defensive ends in the NFL. Johnson was second on the team in sacks with 11.5 and could easily become a 15-20 sack guy in the NFL. Johnson possesses elite size for the position and the Bengals would be smart to do everything possible to keep him in the Queen City.
I ultimately believe he will be tagged as the Franchise player in 2013, but a long-term deal is not out of the question. Johnson will be in high demand, as is always the case with excellent pass rushers.
I do believe they will work out a longer term deal at some point as well, but at this point, he should be tagged.
2. The Coordinators Will Stick Around
Mike Zimmer has become the heart and soul of the Cincinnati Bengals defense and there is no doubt he will return next season. Jay Gruden has done a tremendous job of developing Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, although he has had some tough points throughout the season and should also return.
The Philadelphia Eagles have requested an interview with Gruden, but I do not think he will be offered the job. The Bengals need continuity on both sides of the ball if they want to continue to grow and become a real Super Bowl contender in the years to come.
If Gruden did happen to leave, Hue Jackson, who is the assistant special teams and assistant defensive backs coach, would fit in as Offensive Coordinator rather seamlessly.
3. Long Term Extensions for A.J. Green and Geno Atkins
Those in the Cincinnati area and the true fans across the country are fully aware of Mike Brown and his lack of interest in spending money at times, but when you have one of the best wide receivers and defensive tackles in the game, you have to find a way to keep them in town as long as possible.
Geno Atkins has only one year left on his current contract, thus making it vital to sign him to a long term deal sooner rather than later. Atkins led the Bengals and all defensive tackles in sacks in 2012 with 12.5 and he has also proven to be the anchor for the entire defense. If Atkins hits the open market in 2014, he will be gone, plain and simple.
A.J. Green has two years left on his current contract, but the time is now if you want to show the fans that you are really taking an interest in this team. Do you hear me Mike? Green is a premier receiver in the league and may be the best it has to offer outside of Calvin Johnson. Green finished the season with 11 touchdowns and 1350 yards receiving, which in his second year is some kind of feat.
While these two players are the priority, the Bengals could also look at locking up Andy Dalton and Carlos Dunlap as well, although they are not as high on the list as Green and Atkins.
4. Andre Smith Will Leave Via Free Agency
Andre Smith has developed into a solid starter in the NFL. I would not go as far to call him a star, but he has certainly improved over the last couple of seasons and has avoided being a total bust for a first round selection.
The Bengals would love to bring Smith back. However, I do not believe they will overpay to keep him here, but some teams in desperate need of a solid NFL tackle will. I think Smith will end up in Arizona or Tennessee when all is said and done and they will overpay for his services.
The Bengals do have options here to replace Smith and I think they will first look on the free agent market. Sebastian Vollmer makes some sense here and I believe he will be the first option. If free agency does not work out, the Bengals have some options in the second round of the draft with two picks. Two names pop into mind with D.J. Fluker (If he finally decides to enter) and Oday Aboushi of Virginia.
5. Re-Signing Predictions
Going through the list of Bengals free agents this off-season, I have compiled a list of who I feel will be brought back to the fold for 2013:
Andrew Hawkins (RFA)
Michael Johnson (Franchise Tag)
Jeromey Miles (RFA)
These are the free-agents I am almost certain the Bengals will bring back for next season with Huber, Jones and Sims getting longer term contracts. Newman will be brought back to help Dre Kirkpatrick and should be seen as a leader for the season to come.
6. Players Who Will Walk This off-Season
The Bengals do have a load of free agents who I also believe will not be around next season. We have already discussed Andre Smith, but I think Rey Maualuga is another guy who another team will overpay. Here is a list of guys who may not be around next season:
There are a couple of guys the Bengals could eventually bring back if the other options in free agency are not up to snuff like Gradkowski and Leonard, but I believe that most of these guys will be looking for other opportunities.
8. Free Agent Predictions
The Cincinnati Bengals do have money to spend this off-season and while a portion of that should go to long-term extensions, I do see the Bengals trying to make a splash in the free-agent market.
We have already discussed the Sebastian Vollmer possibility, but I will offer some insight into other possibilities in 2013. The Bengals do have some needs and I think they will do a lot to try and address them in free agency.
Sebatian Vollmer (New England Patriots)
Erin Henderson (Minnesota Vikings)
Captain Munnerlyn (Carolina Panthers)
Darryl Tapp (Philadelphia Eagles)
Greg Toler (Arizona Cardinals)
Sean Considine (Baltimore Ravens)
Gary Barnidge (Carolina Panthers)
Joshua Cribbs (Cleveland Browns)
Chaz Schilens (New York Jets)
David Carr (New York Giants)
The Bengals do have some holes across the board and this is only a small list of some possibility replacements.
Sorry Browns fans, I think the Bengals snatch up Cribbs as a return man with the almost certain loss of Brandon Tate. David Carr also seems like a logical choice to take over as backup if Bruce Gradkowski leaves.
9. Draft Predictions
The NFL draft is another way of getting new players into the mix and the Bengals have become one of the better drafting teams over the last decade or so. The Bengals could go in a variety of directions with their first pick, but I think they ultimately settle on Matt Elam, the safety from the University of Florida. Pairing Elam alongside Reggie Nelson could provide an immediate impact in a shaky secondary.
The Bengals also need a center, defensive end, cornerback, linebackers, a wide receiver and a running back to relieve the Law Firm.
In the Second Round, the Bengals should try and find a linebacker, either inside or out to help offset the losses of Maualuga and possibly Lawson. I think Khaseem Greene would be an excellent fit on the outside and Alec Ogletree would be a perfect inside possibility.
The center position is not extremely deep, but Mario Benavides or Braxston Cave could be there in the mid-rounds and would be a good player to develop to take over for Kyle Cook in a couple of years or even next.
Cornerback is one of the deepest positions available and there are some great mid-round guys to look for like Blidi Wreh-Wilson of Connecticut and Leon McFadden of San Diego State.
Defensive end is also another deep position and I could see the Bengals going second round here and possibly looking at Margus Hunt of SMU or Datone Jones of UCLA. The Bengals also have Brandon Thompson and Devon Still, who did not play much in 2012.
Wide Receiver is another need and the Bengals do need to find a number two guy opposite A.J. Green. Marvin Jones has shown flashes and Mohamed Sanu is probably more adept at the slot position. I really like Quinton Patton from Louisiana Tech here and I think he would help A.J. Green in a couple of years.
10. 2013 Season Prediction.
The Bengals are inching closer to being a legitimate Super Bowl contender and keeping the young core intact will be the key to future success. I am going to go ahead and say that the Cincinnati Bengals will win the AFC North in 2013 and will win at least one playoff game.
This all comes down to the further development of quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton at times looks like a franchise quarterback and other times looks like a mid-level quarterback who holds onto the ball too long. It appeared near the end of the season that Dalton had lost confidence in his receivers and his offensive line, which really had an effect on his game. If he can overcome that, he could be a true top 10 quarterback in the NFL.
Jermaine Gresham is another player who will have to step up in 2013. We say it year in and year out about when will Gresham finally become the tight end we expect him to be. He is ultra-talented and should be up there with the Gronkowski's and Witten's of the league, but he also seems to disappear for a few games at a time and drops way too many passes.
Future success on offense will hinge on these two players and I fully predict they will step up in 2013.
Who-Dey, Who Dey think gonna beat dem Bengals!