We have spent the last couple of months exhaustively examining the pending free agency period from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ perspective, but we haven’t nearly discussed what’s going on around the rest of the AFC North enough, so from now until the start of free agency, we will be taking a look at the free agency picture for the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Browns, and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Cap Number: $122,355,758
Key Free Agents:
Jermaine Gresham: With Tyler Eifert on the roster, the Bengals appear to be looking for a cheaper option in their two tight end looks, rather than facing the possibility of having to pay two tight ends premium money down the road. They have visited with Anthony Fasano already, suggesting Gresham is probably headed elsewhere.
Terence Newman: The Bengals already have about four other former first-round cornerbacks on the roster, including their top pick from a year ago, so this may be the year that the Bengals allow Newman to walk as well.
Clint Boling: Clint Boling was the Bengals’ starting left guard for the past three seasons, but contract negotiations continue to be ongoing as he could hit the open market later today. Cincinnati doesn’t appear to have an obvious in-house option to replace him.
Eric Winston: As injuries mounted late last year on the Bengals’ line, the team signed veteran Eric Winston, and he played well. There appears to be mutual interest to continue the relationship, though he would not return as a starting tackle.
Mike Pollak: Mike Pollak would have been the in-house option as a starting guard, but he has been released after two seasons. He had a chronic knee issue, but the Bengals are expected to go after offensive line depth in the draft.
Greg Little: The Bengals dropped Greg Little after seeing him drop one too many passes, as the Browns did before them. He was not a reliable option for Andy Dalton, making him expendable.
Robert Geathers: The veteran defensive end was on the decline, and that descent precipitated last season as the Bengals pass rush floundered, prompting his release.
The Bengals has re-signed two of their own pending free agents, linebacker Rey Maualuga and kicker Mike Nugent. Restricted free agent Emmanuel Lamur was given a second-round tender, and the Bengals are taking a look at A.J. Hawk as they look for an insurance policy for Vontaze Burfict, who must recover from microfracture surgery.
Should Boling fail to re-sign, they could target a starting guard in free agency. As mentioned, they have looked to insulate themselves at linebacker and tight end with veteran visits already. If former Bengal Michael Johnson hits the market, the team would be interested in bringing him back, but they should have interest in any lineman that could help generate pressure, which was sorely lacking a year ago.