Cincinnati Bengals: Free Agents, Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Zachary Kondratenko@@ZakKondratenkoContributor IIIJuly 25, 2011

Cincinnati Bengals: Free Agents, Should They Stay or Should They Go?

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    The NFL lockout hurt the Bengals offseason development as much as any team in the league. They have a lot of critical goals this offseason, and the work stoppage certainly didn't help.

    They need to get multiple rookies (most importantly QB Andy Dalton) up to NFL speed for Week 1. At least two rookies should start (Dalton and A.J. Green) and others will definitely see playing time.

    They have a new offensive coordinator and need to install their new West Coast system to the entire offense.

    But most of all, they have a ton of personnel decisions to make.  

    What to do with Palmer? Ochocinco?

    Is Terrell Owens gone for sure?

    Do they bring back Cedric Benson after his most recent arrest?

    Are they willing to pay Johnathan Joseph big bucks to stay in black and orange?

    What about the other free agents?

Carson Palmer

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    Age: 31

    2010 Season Recap: 2010 saw Carson throwing the ball more than any season in his career. But Carson didn't deliver.  Maybe it's all the injuries, maybe it's his attitude, maybe it's the Bengals. But Palmer had pretty bad year (20 INT) and only led the Bengals to a 4-12 record.  

    And in case you've been in a coma for the last few months, Carson Palmer is demanding a trade and saying he will retire if he is not moved.

    Big Question: Do the Bengals trade him? Let him retire? Or try to convince him to come back?

    Analysis: Well the last answer is out of the question. Carson is clearly motivated to never play for the Bengals again and even if he was willing to comeback it's time for the Bengals to move on. Carson was once the franchise's great hope, and he did put up good numbers and won a decent number of games in a Bengals uniform. But it's clear he's lost something physically and mentally, and the Bengals have never won a playoff game with him at QB.

    Being a former No. 1 overall pick, Palmer does have enough money to retire. But he still possesses a lot of talent and there are multiple teams that would jump at the opportunity to have him under center.

    Reports are saying the Bengals could get as much as a second round pick for Palmer.

    Answer: Mike Brown needs to fold his cards and trade Carson Palmer. This is not a matter of pride or respect. It's a matter of essentially a free draft pick because Palmer has no value to the Bengals other than that.

Terrell Owens

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    Age: 37

    2010 Season Recap: Owens' high profile signing with Cincy started with a bang but didn't end up being very effective. Owens put up decent numbers in 2010 (72 Rec, 983 yards, 9 TD) but finished the year on the injured reserve. T.O. is not the person to blame for the Bengals struggles last year, he was actually one of the best players on the team.

    But he's 37 and tore his ACL doing God knows what.

    Big Question: IF T.O. wants to play for the Bengals again, and IF he's physically capable at any point during the season, do the Bengals take a shot and bring him back?

    Analysis: The logical answer to any question regarding T.O. would be that his career is over.

    He's 37. He isn't nearly as fast or athletic as he was even two years ago. And there's the recent ACL tear (and injury that often ends the career of 18-year-old kids, much less 37-year-old men).

    But the logical answer with T.O. has been wrong in the past. I don't think that five years ago anyone expected that he'd still be an effective player in the league in 2010, much less trying to come back for 2011.

    Owens clearly loves playing the game, and despite what people say, he is a good guy, but it appears that Father Time has caught up with him.

    He's the third best WR of all time, and it's unfortunate that he doesn't have a ring.

    Answer: Maybe come November we'll see Owens catching passes on Sundays. But it definitely won't be in Cincinnati. There are too many young receivers on the team to even think about taking a risk and bringing Owens back.

Reggie Kelly

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    Age: 34

    2010 Season Recap: Kelly missed all of 2009 and was slowed down in 2010 by an Achilles injury. His main role last year was mentoring Jermaine Gresham.

    Big Question: Should the Bengals bring Kelly back with a one- or two-year deal?  

    Analysis: Gresham is obviously the Bengals tight end. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for Kelly.

    He's had a solid career and a primary blocking tight end and can still be a very effective run blocker in the league. At times he looks like a third tackle.

    He's never been an effective pass catcher, but now that Gresham is in town, that isn't a problem. He's old and injury-prone but the Bengals will be able to get him cheap if they want him.

    Answer: The Bengals should bring Kelly back for another year on a cheap contract. He can still block and is a leader on this team. The other guys love him.

Dhani Jones

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    Age: 33

    2010 Season Recap: Jones had a solid year in the middle and led the Bengals in tackling.

    Big Question: Should Dhani be brought back? Or is it finally time for Ray Maualuga to move to the middle?

    Analysis: I'm a big fan of Dhani. He's a great leader and has been a solid player in the NFL for a long time.

    With that said, Maualuga is the better player at the moment, and he's playing outside despite his natural position being in the middle.

    Jones' play has allowed the Bengals to groom Maualuga for a few years before throwing him in the middle. But Ray has played well, and it appears the time to move him is now.

    Answer: Maualuga should be starting at MLB for the Bengals in 2011. If Dhani Jones is willing to come back for a low price and not start (he'd still get good time though), then I'd say bring him back. I doubt he'll want that though, and I expect to see him in a different uniform.

Roy Williams

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    Age: 30

    2010 Season Recap: Williams stayed healthy in 2010 and played decent. He has clearly lost a step though and wasn't an impact player.

    Big Question: Considering he isn't anything more than a mediocre starter anymore, should the Bengals re-sign Roy?

    Analysis: Safety is the weakest position on the Bengals defense. They really don't have a single solid starter at either safety spot.

    They'll probably only bring back Roy or Ndukwe, and while Ndukwe is much younger and more athletic, Williams doesn't give up as many big plays and is better in run support.

    Due to his big name and experience, a lot of teams will give him offers if the Bengals choose not to.

    Answer: The Bengals seem to be taking the "get as young as possible" approach, so I think they choose Ndukwe. They also drafted Robert Sands in the fifth round. Roy is the odd man out here.

Chindeum Ndukwe

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    Read last slide and you know I favor Ndukwe over Roy.

    He gives up way too many big plays, but Zimmer will continue to work with him and he is actually one of his favorite guys.

    He should be back.

Brandon Johnson

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    Age: 28

    2010 Season Recap: Johnson had another solid year as primarily a third down coverage linebacker and special teams ace.

    Big Question: Is it worth it to bring him back since he's just a role player?

    Analysis: This isn't much of a question. Johnson is the Bengals best coverage backer and is an underrated part of the defense.

    Answer: Yes, yes and yes. There's no reason for the Bengals not to bring him back. He won't want a lot of money, isn't too old and is very consistent.

Jonathan Fanene

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    Age: 29

    2010 Season Recap: He missed 14 games in 2010 but had six sacks in 2009 and is a versatile player who can play anywhere on the line.

    Big Question: With his injury concerns and all the young D-Lineman on the roster, is there room to re-sign Fanene?

    Analysis: Fanene is a solid player when he is healthy, but the Bengals have a ton of other guys at both his positions.

    Dunlap, Odom, Geathers and possibly Michael Johnson are all ahead of him at end. And Peko, Atkins, Sims and maybe Tank Johnson are ahead of him at tackle.

    There may be no room.

    Answer: In my opinion, the Bengals have too many good lineman to re-sign Fanene for anything other than a ridiculously low price. He's good enough to get a lot of playing time on another team, and that's what I expect him to do.

Brian Leonard and Evan Mathis

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    Should both be back, no question.

    Solid and versatile players who help the offense a lot.

    Leonard is valuable as a third down back because he can both block and catch at a high level.

    Mathis can play snaps at every position on the offensive line. 

    Leonard is 27 and Mathis is 29.

Johnathan Joseph

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    Age: 27

    2010 Season Recap: Had another good year opposite Leon Hall. They may just be the best CB duo in the NFL.

    Big Question: With him due for a big pay day and Leon Hall being a free agent next year, should the Bengals pay Joseph?

    Analysis: I feel Leon Hall is the better player than Joseph. He's better at staying healthy, and while Joseph is more likely to take a pick back for a TD, Hall is more solid in coverage.

    If they think they will only be able to re-sign one of them, I would let Joseph go and re-sign Hall next year.

    I don't think that's the case though. The CB play has been the strength of this defense, and with Pacman's injury and recent arrest, it appears his career may be over and that makes Joseph even more of a priority.

    I have no problem paying two corners big money.

    Answer: They should do everything they can (even if it means the franchise tag) to keep Joseph (and Hall next year) in a Bengals uniform.

Pacman Jones

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    Please Mike Brown, cut this degenerate. I know he was good when healthy last year, but enough is enough.

    And please, every other owner in the league, don't give him another shot!!

Chad Ochocinco

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    Age: 33

    2010 Season Recap: Chad was never really focused or healthy last year, and that led to his second bad season in the last three years.

    Big Question: Do the Bengals release Chad and pay the penalty? Trade him? Or let him play out the final year of his contract with the team?

    Analysis: I've always loved Chad. He's one of my favorite players ever, and I think he has brought more positive energy to both the Bengals and the NFL than he'll ever get credit for.

    But even the biggest Chad fan can't deny his struggles at the moment. He seems to be unhappy with the Bengals again and as Chad has proven multiple times that when he's happy he's one of the most dynamic offensive weapons the NFL has seen in a long time. But when he's upset, his play shows it.

    Chad isn't the elite player he once was, but he has a lot more left in the tank.  He still has good speed, quickness and athleticism. He's also still one of the best route runners in the NFL.  

    If the Bengals decide not to continue with Chad in their plans, there will multiple teams willing to take him in through a trade. And he could be very successful with another team.

    Answer: I seem to be one of the few who think the Bengals should keep Chad this year. Not only could he mentor A.J. Green, but also I think it would be nice for Andy Dalton to have at least one veteran to throw the ball to. If the Bengals can make Chad believe in them again, he can still produce at a high level.

Cedric Benson

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    Age: 28

    2010 Season Recap: Benson wasn't as effective as he was in 2009 (his YPC dropped dramatically), but some of that blame can be put on the line. He still ran for over 1,100 yards.

    Big Question: Considering his most recent arrest, is it worth it for the Bengals to re-sign Benson to a big deal?

    Analysis: You probably have one of the following two opinions on this matter.

    A) You think that Benson's last chance to prove he's matured was coming to the Bengals and his most recent arrest proved he's still the same old punk and his attitude and behavior could seriously harm the dynamic of a young team.

    B) You think that with a rookie QB and a lot of young receivers the offense needs to lean on Benson heavily like in 2009 and he's the teams top priority this offseason.  

    Both are legitimate arguments. The Bengals will need to run effectively this year, and it's pretty clear Bernard Scott is nothing more than a change-of-pace guy. Benson has rejuvenated his on the field career in Cincinnati and has been the centerpiece of the offense the last two years.

    But he did screw up again and a line has to be drawn somewhere.

    I actually think this most recent arrest could be a blessing in disguise for the Bengals. Cedric was due for a big time payday this offseason, whether it was with the Bengals or someone else. His newfound legal troubles and possible looming suspension will no doubt hurt his value and lose him money.

    The Bengals are in position to re-sign him for only a fraction of what they would have had he never been arrested.

    Or maybe we could stop becoming a team notorious for giving criminals second, third, and in the case of Chris Henry, (God rest his soul) fourth chances.

    Answer: Sign Benson to a short-term deal. If he wants anything more than three years, let him walk. It's not worth the risk. Obviously the Bengals are a much better football team with him but throwing a huge contract at an injury-prone back with character issues is not a good idea.