While some position groups can afford to focus on primarily free agency or primarily the draft, more often than not, teams are forced to do a combination of the two.
As for the Bengals, that's where they stand at many positions.
Defensive line was maintained by giving Michael Johnson the franchise tag. However, Wallace Gilberry and Robert Geathers are free agents. The Bengals could use some of the young athleticism exhibited by the defensive linemen in this year's NFL draft class; however, they could also use the experience of a veteran to come in and set a strong example.
NFL Network analyst Charles Davis has the Bengals taking a defensive end first in this year's NFL draft. With Michael Johnson receiving the franchise tag, this seems increasingly unlikely. However, don't be surprised if the Bengals select a D-lineman in the draft.
For safeties, the Bengals must make some moves. Nate Clements and Chris Crocker are both free agents. Clements was one of the most expensive Bengals last year, collecting $5.5 million in 2012. Crocker was a blessing considering he was signed midseason to help out with safety troubles and required less than a million dollars.
For 2013, if the Bengals are going to spend $5.5 million on a player, he better be a player. The fact that Nate Clements even played safety is an issue. Initially a cornerback, Clements made the switch in 2012 to help with the ailing position.
Youngster George Iloka and unproven Taylor Mays were expected to step up, but Clements won the job. For the price of Crocker, the Bengals could pay a 21-year-old, mold him into the player they want, and probably keep him for a couple years.
The question then becomes should they look for youth or experience at safety? The answer is both. The Bengals could use a veteran safety to come in, make consistent plays and get the younger guys on the right track.
San Francisco safety and soon-to-be free agent Dashon Goldson told Sirius XM Sports earlier this week that he wouldn't mind wearing stripes someday, "I like those guys down there. They have a good football team down there. I'm familiar with those guys and I like how they play."
Goldson is asking for around $8 million a year. The Bengals could take the $5.5 million from Nate Clements' contract, throw the extra $1.9 million that all teams got from the salary-cap increase, and offer Goldson a three year, incentive-laden, front-loaded contract.
With Crocker's $825,000 contract, the Bengals could sign a late-round pick or even a rookie free agent after the draft. This year's safety class is deep so it could happen.
Andre Smith is the Bengals' highest priority free agent now. According to NFLTradeRumor, he is one of the highest profile free agents in the league.
Smith is asking for around $9 million a year in his next deal. While the Bengals have the money to pay him that much, his questionable decisions and spotty productivity bring up the question of if he's worth it.
Some team will pay Smith top dollar and chances are it won't be the Bengals. Worse things have happened. Some reports say that teams are "scared" of taking the risk on Smith.
The offensive line will be fine. Rookies G Kevin Zeitler and C Trevor Robinson both made Mel Kiper Jr's NFL All Rookie team in 2012 (ESPN Insider). Andrew Whitworth, at the left tackle, made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2013 and this year's draft class has some players.
On top of all that, the Chiefs released Eric Winston recently. Winston, or any other promising free-agent tackle, could combine with a youngster and fill in for Smith if the situation called for it.