Cincinnati Bengals: Grading the Bengals' Free Agent Acquisitions

Matt David@@mattdavidkyCorrespondent IIAugust 8, 2011

Cincinnati Bengals: Grading the Bengals' Free Agent Acquisitions

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have had a pretty good offseason.

    The draft went pretty well. By all accounts, A.J. Green is a stud. Andy Dalton is the quarterback of the future. And Clint Boling is showing everyone why he was such a steal.

    They also got rid of a couple veterans who needed to go in Antwan Odom and Chad Ochocinco.

    How did they do in the free agent market? Historically, for the Bengals to get a top notch free agent, they have had to overpay. They also take shots on guys that are looking to keep the chains moving in their NFL career. That is how it is when you are the Bengals. They can change that, but they won't.

    Click here to see how the roster might shake out.

    Anyway, here is how they did.

1. Nate Clements: A

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    The Bengals signed Nate Clements to a two-year deal. He is clearly on a downward path in his career.

    However, the Bengals absolutely needed a talented, veteran corner to replace Johnathan Joseph, who moved on to Houston. Clements fills the bill.

    Clements should still be able to play at a high level at times. He has lost some speed but he won't be a huge drop-off from Joseph. He is known as a physical corner who is a sure tackler.

    The Bengals surely need more guys that can tackle.

2. Manny Lawson: A

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    Manny Lawson was signed to a one-year deal, so his time may be short in Cincinnati. In the meantime, Lawson is a good linebacker who many think wasn't a good fit in the 3-4 defense that he came from.

    Lawson is hoping he can play well enough for the Bengals to get a fat payday from some team. Hopefully, that happens and the Bengals are that team.

    Lawson is known as a linebacker who can cover. The Bengals have had many problems over the years with tight ends and running backs killing them on third down by getting open underneath.

    If Lawson can shut those down, everyone in Bengal nation will be happy.

3. Thomas Howard: B

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    Thomas Howard should be the Bengals' strong-side linebacker for the next two years.

    He is a good acquisition for a team that needs more linebacker depth.

    Howard averaged over 100 tackles during his first three season for the Oakland Raiders and is expected to take over for Keith Rivers, who may be out for a long while.

4. Bruce Gradkowski: B

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    Bruce Gradkowski was signed to help Andy Dalton become the best quarterback he can be. Gradkowski knows that he isn't here to become the quarterback of the future.

    Signing Bradkowski makes sense.

    He knows the Bengals offense and can step in if Dalton has issues. His presence hopefully means the end of the Jordan Palmer era.

5. Brandon Johnson: B

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    Brandon Johnson was the Bengals’ special teams captain last season and he knows Mike Zimmer's defense.

    He may not start but he will fill in well when he is brought in.

    Without Keith Rivers and Dhani Jones, the Bengals needed Brandon Johnson making this a very good move. Adding Johnson, Howard and Lawson makes the Bengals' linebacker situation look pretty strong.

6. Bo Scaife: C

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    Signing Bo Scaife doesn't mean much to the success of the offense. He won't start over 2010 first-round pick Jermaine Gresham

    He may work in with Chase Coffman however, as offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has indicated that he will use the tight end more than they have in the past.

7. Max Jean-Gilles: C

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    The Bengals signed Jean-Gilles to add depth at offensive guard. He may start but he'll have plenty of competition to win the job.

    The jury is out on this move, but Jean-Gilles is a huge man who can get in the way of would-be sackers.

8. Cedric Benson: D

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    Hopefully, the Cedric Benson era in Cincinnati will end soon. His best years are behind him.

    In 2010, Benson averaged 3.5 yards per carry. That total matched his 2008 number, which was similar to his 2007 number (3.4). His 2009 success is looking more and more like a fluke as Benson was one of the worst running backs in the league in 2010.

    Benson had three big games in 2010. The three teams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns) that he torched for those games rank 28th, 32nd (dead last) and 27th in the league in rushing defense respectively. In Benson's other 13 games, he averaged 2.1 yards per carry. Ouch!

    In 2010, he matched his career total with seven fumbles which was second in the league. When the feature running back puts up less than three yards a carry in most games, he should at least be able to secure the ball.

    The Bengals would have been better off rolling the dice with Jay Finley, Ced Peerman or Byron Scott.

    Here are six reasons why the Bengals should not have re-signed Benson.