With Carson Palmer leaving Cincinnati after Sunday's dismantling, finally closing a chapter that's brewed for nearly two years, we figured now would be a great opportunity to update another one of our long-standing files: Former Bengals players and how they're doing at their new gigs. Note. Since Palmer has been the most well-known former player, with enough information to write several books on the matter last week, we'll move on to the lesser known players that left Cincinnati for bright digs (or so they thought).
[Note: We're only talking about players that were on the 2011 roster... though not everyone]
FROSTEE RUCKER. Rucker's success in Cleveland is fantastically relative, signing a five-year deal worth $20.5 million with $8 million guaranteed. What has this bought the Cleveland Browns this year? Three quarterback sacks (one on Andy Dalton), a forced fumble, 19 tackles and the worst Pro Football Focus grade on the Browns defense.
Rucker was a Mike Holmgren signing, who quietly resigned as the team president following Cleveland's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Depending on how new management looks at things -- or more importantly the return on some of their more costly investments -- Rucker may be on the hot seat at this point. But we're just conjecturing at this point with no real basis one way or the other.
From a Bengals Perspective: If Rucker were to become available, the Bengals would snatch him up in a heartbeat. Not as an every down defensive end; rather a rotation guy that can also rush the passer inside. The Bengals love rotation on the defensive line. Also consider that Robert Geathers and Michael Johnson become unrestricted free agents after this season.
That being said we're not banking on Rucker's return anytime soon. Personnel-wise the Bengals didn't necessarily replace him. They tried with Jamaal Anderson and Derrick Harvey. Instead Michael Johnson amped up his production and Wallace Gilberry has been an unexpected supplement this year.
JEROME SIMPSON. Despite knowing he'd be placed on a three-game suspension at the onset of the regular season, the Minnesota Vikings signed Jerome Simpson to a one-year deal worth $2 million anyway. Not that we have a heavy understanding on what's going on with Minnesota's offense, Simpson has been a significant disappointment for an offense that really needed vertical help, especially with Percy Harvin missing time with an ankle injury.
Through seven games this season, Simpson has generated 12 receptions, including two games with goose eggs on the stat sheet. He's yet to post five receptions in a game and he hasn't generated a game north of 50 yards receiving.
Christopher Gates with SB Nation's Daily Norseman writes:
Remember when we thought that Jerome Simpson was going to help open things up for the Vikings' offense? Yeah... not so much. Simpson's numbers for today? Five targets, one catch, one yard, three drops. If the plan was to play for Minnesota for a year on the cheap and cash in for the 2013 season, that plan has failed miserably for Mr. Simpson.
From A Bengals Perspective: Replaced. It wasn't as quick as the team would have liked, giving looks to Brandon Tate and Armon Binns, but it appears like the Bengals have finally found their niche with Mohamed Sanu and the talent behind him with Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones sniffing playing time.
ANDRE CALDWELL. Since both were drafted within three rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft, Simpson and Andre Caldwell have been joined at the hip. There wasn't much seriousness that Cincinnati would bring Caldwell back, so the former Bengals receiver signed a two-year deal worth $1.8 million with the Denver Broncos.
Instead of gloriously catching Peyton Manning touchdowns, Caldwell has been inactive during more games (6) than he's played (5) and he's heading into Week 13 of the 2012 regular season without posting a single reception.
From a Bengals Perspective: See Simpson, Jerome.
JORDAN SHIPLEY. If you listened really hard during a rolling fog throughout Cincinnati, sometimes you could hear a sad Jordan Shipley strumming Every Rose Has It's Thorn. After suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2011, Shipley just hasn't been the same. He was released during training camp, allowing him time to catch on with another team.
Shipley played one game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but fumbled a punt return and was released the next day. Two months later Shipley returned to the NFL signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, even posting a 24-yard reception during Jacksonville's first home win of the season over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
From a Bengals Perspective: If this guy is completely healthy, he'll benefit someone. Unfortunately not Cincinnati, who are stacked with enough talent that he'd get buried on the depth chart.
KEITH RIVERS. One of the more commonly used phrases in The Matrix trilogy is "some things in this world stay the same, and some things change." The thing that changed is Keith Rivers is now playing for the New York Giants. The thing that remains the same is that Rivers remains prone to injuries. He's missed five games this year with knee and calf injuries. Of the six games he's played (three as a starter), Rivers stat sheet ends after 24 tackles.
Rivers was an inactive against the Bengals earlier this year with a calf injury. And while preparing for his old team, Rivers said didn't have any hard feelings with the divorce with Cincinnati, who sent Rivers to the Giants for a fifth-round pick.
"There's no reason to have any hard feelings," Rivers said. "We just weren't on a same page, actually for a long time, and finally we were able to end, and I'm happy with where I'm at, and hopefully they're happy with where they're at."
From a Bengals Perspective: Yes. Yes, we are. Vontaze Burfict went undrafted as a red flag due to a high-number of personal fouls and issues regarding his work ethic. He'll end the season as a rookie of the year candidate among a very talented Cincinnati rookie class, but more importantly, a professional that this city is proud to have.
NATE LIVINGS. Offensive linemen in the NFL are the hardest players to grade individually. So much of what could be perceived as failure, could easily be a combination of things that were unrelated to that player's production (aka, missed blocking assignment from others, bad presnap calls).
Nate Livings left Cincinnati when Dallas offered him a five-year deal worth $18.7 million. For his part he's playing well. According to the grades at Pro Football Focus, Livings isn't just the top-performing offensive lineman for the Cowboys, he's their fourth-best offensive player. Setting aside trivial complaints from years past, kudos to Nate for doing well in Dallas.
From a Bengals Perspective. Nate, who? Though Livings is doing well, Bengals starting guards Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling are ranked in the top-eight on the same Pro Football Focus grading scale... in the NFL.
BOBBIE WILLIAMS. The chance was marginal at best that Cincinnati would re-sign Bobbie Williams as a backup, who had suffered a major ankle injury in 2011. While he was still rehabilitating, the Bengals drafted Kevin Zeitler and signed Travelle Wharton. Williams had no leverage to demand anything, though the Bengals would have been open to keeping Williams around for some mentorship work.
It didn't work out and Williams signed with the Ravens. Through 11 games this year, Williams has played in nine (missing the last two) and started four, participating during only 210 offensive snaps.
From a Bengals Perspective: See Livings, Nate.
JONATHAN FANANE. Quickly signing a contract offer from the New England Patriots, Fanene spent most of his time during training camp out with what some have described as a degenerative knee condition. Regardless Fanene hasn't played football this entire season. However at some point a playoff team could look for a defensive lineman to bolster their pass rush and Fanene should be healthy now, based on recovery projections in August.
From a Bengals Perspective: Much like Rucker, I believe that the Bengals would welcome Fanene back, provided it makes sense and there's an unfortunate vacancy (AKA, injury). Other than that, it's probably a long shot that Fanene plays this year with lingering concerns regarding his knee.
CEDRIC BENSON. Played five games with the Green Bay Packers this year, generating 248 yards rushing and a 3.5 yard/rush average before being placed on Injured Reserve with a foot. He's eligible to return in Week 14 but at this point Benson isn't ruling out surgery, which would definitely end his season.
From a Bengals Perspective: Prior to Cincinnati's win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the rushing offense was stringing together one of their worst seasons to date. Things have settled down on that front but the Bengals wouldn't have welcomed Benson back regardless, due to the off-the-field issues that he continued inviting.