Free agency opens on March 13 and the Bengals, who have more cap space than most teams, thanks to dumping the contracts of both Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco on other teams, could look to improve their team by signing a couple of guys that could fill holes on the depth chart. Likewise, there's a handful of their own players that, if they don't get re-signed, could fill the holes on another team.
CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco recently published his top-50 free agents and three of those free agents played for the Bengals in 2011.
The first on that list is free safety Reggie Nelson, who comes in at No. 43.
He was a disappointment in Jacksonville, but has turned his career around with the Bengals. He's a rangy safety who has improved his tackling. He turns 29 in September.
On a list of free agents that the Bengals have to re-sign, I listed Nelson as the second highest priority for the Bengals to re-sign after kicker Mike Nugent. The Bengals need to find a new strong safety and it would be best if they don't put themselves in a position where they need to find a new free safety too.
The next player on Prisco's list is wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who comes in at No. 47.
He is a receiver who can fly. That would make him a hot commodity, but he has a legal issue hanging over his head. He just turned 26 earlier this month.
I would personally be surprised if Simpson was re-signed by the Bengals in 2012. He has been a big underachiever with the Bengals and when he did get a chance to play, he was terribly inconsistent and now he had a drug charge. He'll likely be signed elsewhere and, who knows, maybe he'll have better luck with another team. I wouldn't be surprised to see him as a deep threat and not a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver, though.
The last player on the list is defensive tackle Pat Sims, who is in last place at No. 50.
He has started 23 games in four seasons for the Bengals. He is mostly an anchor inside against the run. He won't bring a lot of pass rush. He turns 27 in November.
The Bengals' pass defense went downhill after Sims went on IR and it would be nice to see him in stripes again in 2012 because he's definitely got a talent for plugging holes on the line and stopping the run. That can be a valuable commodity in the AFC North.
If the Bengals can re-sign Nelson and Sims, they will go a long way to having another solid defense in 2012. Hopefully they know what they have to do and they do it when they get the chance. If not, they'll be looking to find a talented run stopper and a free safety elsewhere.