Cincinnati Bengals: State of the Franchise as Pro Days Begin

Matt Gray@mattkgrayContributor IMarch 26, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 30:  Marvin Lewis the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals watches the game action during the NFL game against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals head toward the draft with another routinely quiet free-agency period under their belts.

Far from splashing the cash on big names, the Bengals continue to heed the lessons of 2010/11.

But is 2013 the year that playing it safe becomes Cincinnati's undoing?

Should we regard this low-key offseason as impressive or underwhelming?

These are just some of the questions looming large over Marvin Lewis as pro-days begin.

Ben Dogra is the focus of Cincy's attention this week. He represents both Andre Smith and Terence Newman, both of whom the Bengals are hoping to close with in the next few days.

Based on the deals handed to Jake Long and Gosder Cherilus, Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer see's Andre Smith receiving a $26-27 million deal in Cincinnati, with $7-8 million guaranteed. The indication is that there's no market for Andre Smith and Dogra is simply trying to create one.

Newman has had interest from the Oakland Raiders and continues to weigh up his options. It's likely that he has one-year offers on the table and is trying to eek out a second year. He's a big Mike Zimmer fan so his return is probable.

As a side note, Newman's return could be great for Dre Kirkpatrick. Another year under the tutelage of Newman, Hall, etc. will be important in bringing the injury-plagued cornerback up to speed.

The return of Adam Jones gives the Bengals depth, and is a testament to his hard work and humble attitude since coming to Cincy. His return skills alone are worth another deal.

The same can't be said for return-man Brandon Tate who returns on a one-year deal after the Bengals failed to bring Ted Ginn Jr. into the fold. 

The retention of Michael Johnson and the re-signing of Kevin Huber, Mike Nugent and Andrew Hawkins have been smart and popular moves while Rey Maualuga's deal proved a point of contention.

Focus is now firmly on the draft and Marvin Lewis has kicked things off by visiting the Tar Heels. The purpose of his visit is likely to have been RB Giovani Bernard. The Bengals are looking for a change of pace back to complement BenJarvus Green-Ellis with Bernard Scott unlikely to return. Gio could be a Bengal late in the second round.

According to Cincy JungleMike Zimmer is on his annual tour of the Lone Star State and was seen putting Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro (who could be available at No. 21) and defensive end Alex Okafor through their paces. Safety is one of the Bengals' top priorities this offseason and Vaccaro is just one name in a fairly strong class. Expect to see Zim tangle with a truck-load of safeties at pro-days over the coming weeks.

For fans disheartened at the lack of free agency additions, don't despair. It shows us that the Bengals are comfortable in drafting players to start right away. Kevin Zeitler, Marvin Jones, Mo Sanu, UDFA Vontaze Burfict, the list goes on. Lewis and company have asked for much from their rookies and the results have been impressive.

But can Marvin Lewis once again draft the right pieces to complete a Bengals roster fast-approaching 'win-now' territory?