2012 Free Agency: Who Should The Bengals Re-Sign And Who Should They Let Walk?

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 18: Mike Nugent #2 of the Cincinnati Bengals kicks a field goal against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 18, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bengals beat the Rams 20-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

It's no surprise that draft talk has already heated up. After all, the NFL draft is becoming almost as big of an event as any playoff game. However, before we get too engrossed in different mock drafts and who the Bengals are going to take, we have to focus on free agency. The Bengals have a lot of needs coming into the 2012 season and they can fill some of those needs with veteran players and by re-signing their own players.

Speaking of their own players, here's my list of Bengals free agents in order of most important to re-sign to least important.

Mike Nugent: Nugent has been a very consistent kicker in 2012. His field goal percentage was 87.5 and he only missed on extra point out of 34 throughout the season. With all the holes that the Bengals need to fill in 2012, the last one they should be worried about is finding a new kicker. Re-signing Nugent should be a no-brainer and they should do it early to get it out of the way.
Definitely Re-Sign

Reggie Nelson: The Bengals already need to find a new safety to take over for a very underwhelming Chris Crocker and the last thing they should do is put themselves in a position in which they need to find two new safeties. Nelson played well enough that I am comfortable with him as a starting free safety in the future. The Bengals should re-sign him immediately.
Definitely Re-Sign

Frostee Rucker: Rucker had a good season in 2011. It was good enough that he wrestled a starting job away from Michael Johnson and was good at both rushing the passer and defending against the run. Rucker is likely looking to start at defensive end for a team and as far as I'm concerned, the Bengals starting defensive end job is his to lose, if they re-sign him of course.
Definitely Re-Sign

Bobbie Williams: The fact that Williams is so high on the list may come as a surprise to some Bengals fans, but hear me out. Williams was by far the team's best guard in 2011 and when he went on IR with a broken ankle, you could see how his absence impacted the offense. The Bengals will likely address the guard position in the draft but they won't be able to find two new starters. If they draft a new guard in the first round, that guard could play opposite of Williams. If they don't re-sign Williams, they need to go out and find a different guard from another team
Should Re-Sign

Manny Lawson: Lawson, along with Thomas Howard, played well in 2011 and earned himself another contract as far as I'm concerned. Like the kicker position, there are enough holes on the roster that they don't need to worry about who their starting linebacker will be. If they re-sing Lawson, they won't have to.
Should Re-Sign

Pat Sims: Sims is a run-stopping machine. Unfortunately, in his four seasons in the NFL, he has only finished one of them injury free, which is a concern, but there is definitely an upside. Mike Zimmer could use a guy like Sims to help stop AFC North running backs from jamming the ball down their throats and he will help keep that deep defensive line as one of the major strengths of the team.
Should Re-Sign

Brandon Johnson: Johnson is a specialist linebacker excelling in coverage. He isn't a starter in Mike Zimmer's defense but he adds a lot of depth and can play either outside linebacker spot if he needs to. He may not be a starter but he's definitely worth keeping around.
Should Re-Sign

Jonathan Fanene: Like Rucker and Sims, Fanene is important to re-sign in my opinion to keep that defensive line unit deep and talented so they can be fresh throughout the game. He also has value because he can play defensive tackle or defensive end.
Should Re-Sign

Adam Jones: Jones showed that he may not be a starting cornerback anymore but what he also showed us is he's better than Kelly Jennings and he can be a backup and a third cornerback playing in nickel formations. Leon Hall will hopefully be back to start the season and the Bengals will likely grab a new corner in the draft, possibly in the first round. Jones will be important to be back on the field to play in passing situations and just in case Hall isn't quite ready yet.
Think About Re-Signing

Anthony Collins: Collins showed he's an effective right tackle when he's given a chance to play. Unfortunately for him, the team has too much invested in Andre Smith to give Collins a fair shot but if something happens to Smith during the season, it would be nice to have Collins around. Unfortunately, I doubt the Bengals will be able to re-sign him because I'm thinking he wants a starting job.
Think About Re-Signing

Dennis Roland: Roland is at least 300 feet tall and probably weighs as much as a fully loaded city bus and there has to be some sort of intimidation factor when he's on the field. He comes in on goal line situations and, since he's probably a troll of some sort, he helps the Bengals in those third- and fourth-and-short situations. If the Bengals lose Collins, they'll probably want to make sure they keep Roland.
Think About Re-Signing

Donald Lee: The tight end job belongs to Jermaine Gresham and nobody is going to take it away from him. Lee could help add some depth to the tight end position and has some value as a pass catcher as well. The Bengals will likely find somebody to help Gresham and they might as well keep the guy that did in 2011.
Maybe If There's Money/Room

Jerome Simpson: Simpson is terribly unreliable and inconsistent but you can't deny his incredible athleticism. The Bengals are hopefully looking to find a more suitable No. 2 receiver to play opposite of A.J. Green, but Simpson still has some value as a deep threat and a backup receiver. His drug issue should make him cheap.
Maybe If There's Money/Room

Cedric Benson: Benson's time in Cincinnati is more than likely over but he is coming off his third straight 1,000-yard season. Part of Benson's troubles in 2011 was the line's inability to open up holes for him but Benson lacks the ability to make plays on his own as well. If the Bengals are unable to grab the running back they want in the draft, they may bring Benson back.
Should Not Re-Sign

Nate Livings: Livings was bad in 2011 as the team's starting left guard and the Bengals will probably be looking for a new guard either in free agency and probably in the draft. However, Livings could be re-signed as a backup. That would be a good role for him.
Should Not Re-Sign

Kelly Jennings: Jennings struggled in coverage in 2011. With the Bengals expected to address the cornerback positon in the upcoming draft, I dont' see a spot on the roster for Jennings in 2012.
Should Not Re-Sign

Andre Caldwell: If Simpson is inconsistent, then what is Caldwell. A.J. Green is the future of the Bengals and with Jordan Shipley coming back from injury in 2012 and with the team expecting to draft or sign a new wide receiver in free agency, Caldwell's time in Cincinnati is likely over.
Should Not Re-Sign

Bo Scaife: Scaife got hurt before the season started and was place on IR. There's no real reason the Bengals would re-sign him in 2012.
Should Not Re-Sign

Mike McGlynn: McGlynn started at right guard once Bobbie Williams went on IR but he struggled at pass and run blocking. With the Bengals expecting to find a new guard in the draft and with Clint Boling on the roster with a year under his belt, there's no need to bring McGlynn back.
Should Not Re-Sign

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