6 Available Free Agents Still Within the Cincinnati Bengals' Reach
With the NFL draft approaching rather quickly, the Cincinnati Bengals' chances to sign some high-quality free agents is wearing thin. Outside of acquiring Jason Campbell and Danieal Manning, they've been mostly quiet this offseason.
That doesn't guarantee that they'll remain that way. I don't see it as likely that they'll make any moves, but one can hope. As of now, the Bengals have plenty of payroll with the logic being that Vontaze Burfict and A.J. Green are likely to receive big paydays in the near future.
While that logic makes sense, the window of opportunity is closing fast for this team. It's already lost Michael Johnson, Andrew Hawkins and, in the past, Johnathan Joseph. Cincinnati needs to be in win-now mode.
That being said, who can assist in that process?
David Diehl, G
David Diehl brings over 10 years of experience wherever he ends up, which is something Cincinnati could greatly benefit from. The Bengals could bring him in as a reserve at left guard, and he could feasibly compete with Clint Boling for the starting position.
Tanner Hawkinson was drafted out of Kansas in last year's draft to add some depth to the position, but given that it's him and Boling right now, there are still a lot of questions. Boling isn't really a dominating lineman, and you don't know yet what you'll get from Hawkinson.
Enter Diehl, who's won two Super Bowls whilst guarding Eli Manning. Further, Diehl is on the back end of his career, having only appeared in 11 games since the end of the 2011 season, which means the Bengals should be able to bring him in at a reasonable price.
It is a long shot in this scenario, but Cincinnati could breathe a little easier if Diehl were signed as a reinforcement.
Anthony Spencer, DE
Dallas drafted Anthony Spencer out of Purdue in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft, and after several successful seasons with the Cowboys, he appears to be moving on. With the loss of Michael Johnson to free agency, Cincinnati could use a veteran defensive end with experience to bolster the defense.
Spencer set career highs in sacks (11) and tackles (95) in 2012 but was seen extremely sparsely in 2013. It's hard to imagine that Spencer is going to be able to match those numbers going forward, but stranger things have certainly happened.
Again, this case is not very likely, mostly because Spencer's asking price would be pretty steep. It wouldn't be in Cincinnati's best interest to overspend for Spencer since it has depth at defensive end. Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry are likely to start, with youngster Margus Hunt and veteran Robert Geathers to back them up.
However, Hunt is unproven and still a question mark, while Geathers will certainly never be the player he was in 2006. For the right price, Spencer could be a steal in the Queen City and continue to build that dominating Cincinnati defense.
Travelle Wharton, G
This is the everlasting image of Travelle Wharton that Bengals fans have. Wharton was due to start for Cincinnati during the 2012 season, but a knee injury in the preseason ended that dream. He never played a regular-season game for the Bengals.
Now, after a season with the Carolina Panthers that saw him start all 16 games, it could be a good idea to bring him back. Yes, there are certainly injury concerns, as not only did Wharton miss all of 2012, he'd also missed all of 2011.
However, Wharton brings the same size and potential dominance that I mentioned with Diehl. Wharton has experience and was a blocker for a fierce Carolina offense last season, so the guy knows what he's doing.
He shouldn't be an expensive buy given his recent string of injuries. Cincinnati could use an upgrade in size and power at the left guard position, and if Wharton stays healthy, he could be the guy.
Sidney Rice, WR
As a Minnesota Viking in 2009, Sidney Rice caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. He has never even come close to duplicating that season.
In his defense though, Rice hasn't really had any great quarterbacks throwing to him since then—Brett Favre did not come close to duplicating his 2009 season in 2010, and through three seasons in Seattle, Rice never had a pocket passer-type quarterback who would give receivers big numbers.
I'm not trying to say Andy Dalton is a star, but ask A.J. Green if he can get the job done. Green has rapidly become one of the top receivers in the NFL, and he isn't throwing to himself.
Green is the clear top receiver in Cincinnati and is being backed up by up-and-comer Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. After that, the receiving corps isn't all that impressive, with Brandon Tate being the biggest name.
Enter Rice, who would be a clear-cut No. 2 receiver. Jones operates better out of the slot anyway, and Sanu could be used in the same fashion using his power.
Cincinnati needs another high-impact receiver to relieve the pressure from Green, and Rice would certainly accomplish that.
Terrell Thomas, CB
2012 was an impressive season for Terrell Thomas, but he took a bit of a downturn in 2013, as did the entire New York Giants franchise. He went from making 101 tackles in 2012 to only 67 last season, and that came in the same amount of games.
I don't necessarily think this would be any kind of huge upgrade for Cincinnati, but with Leon Hall returning from another Achilles injury, there are some questions. Hall is likely not going to be the same high-impact corner, Terence Newman has aged and Dre Kirkpatrick is looking more and more like a first-round bust.
After that, you have Adam Jones and a myriad of faceless corners. Thomas, while not a fantastic man-cover corner, has made an impact in the past with the Giants—he made five picks in 2011 and 2012 each.
This won't be like adding Darrelle Revis or Aqib Talib, but it would give the Bengals an insurance policy on defense. With Mike Zimmer having left the team, it seems the whole defense has questions.
Will Smith, DE
If there's any free agent on the market that Cincinnati could greatly benefit from, this is it. With continued uncertainty on one end of the defensive line, bringing in a star like Will Smith would be huge.
Smith is a better pass-rusher than anyone else on the Bengals' squad outside of maybe Vontaze Burfict. I'm not suggesting that he'll match his 2009 total of 13 sacks or even his 2006 season of 10.5 sacks, but he could definitely reach those numbers if given the opportunity.
It seems that this fallacy was going around that Smith was on the downswing, but he still recorded six sacks in 2013 and totaled 58 tackles. They aren't his old Pro Bowl-caliber numbers, but any team that says it doesn't want that is lying.
If Smith were paired with Dunlap on the ends and then put together with Geno Atkins and Domata Peko, the Bengals' already formidable defensive line would become unstoppable. It would be feasible to say that the Bengals would have the best defensive line in the game, even one of the best in recent memory.
The Bengals have money to spend, and if they only want to get one more guy, Will Smith is that guy.