Free agency is set to begin in about one week and that means that every free agent will be fair game for every NFL team. There are going to be the elite free agents that will command hefty contracts, and there will also be second-tier free agents who will land big contracts. Both could contribute to a team's success immediately.
But what about those forgotten players on the market? Those viewed as "second-tier", or the "bottom of the barrel/bargain type" who sometimes go unnoticed, but still have the potential to contribute on the field. Well, there's a place for them as well, especially on the 2012 Bengals roster.
We already know the Bengals biggest needs heading into the offseason are: cornerback, safety, offensive line, running back, and wide receiver. The draft is one way for the Bengals to fill some of these holes, but before we even reach the draft, free agency will already be in full-swing and some holes could looked to be filled that by that route. Many are throwing out the disclaimer that we fans shouldn't expect the Bengals to pursue the top free agents on the market. Instead, it's more likely that the Bengals will pursue players who won't command hefty contracts and others that could be signed for bargain prices.
And some "bargain" players that might interest the Bengals could also be termed as "flying under the radar". Those types of players could include San Diego Chargers' running back Mike Tolbert and San Francisco 49ers' wide receiver Josh Morgan. Either player would help the Bengals fill some of their voids on offense and contribute to the offensive attack.
Tolbert is an interesting story. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by San Diego in 2008 out of Coastal Carolina. During his first two seasons he only ran the ball 38 times for 185 yards and one touchdown. Even though it was only a small sample size, the Chargers must have seen something that they liked in him because for the past two seasons Tolbert has had a bigger role on offense. He has run for 1,225 yards and 19 touchdowns on 303 carries.
With many connecting the Bengals to Raiders running back, Michael Bush, Tolbert is the kind of guy that could peak the Bengals interest. And since they are wanting to implement a rotation at running back, he is the type of player who seems as if he is more concerned about the team's success rather than his personal achievements. Capable of getting the tough yards, he's also a solid pass protector and more than capable of making catches out of the backfield. Since it appears that Cedric Benson is on his way out of Cincinnati, Tolbert could be a viable option to help replace him and could come cheaper than Bush.
As for Morgan, he has spent his entire four-year career with the 49ers. But during that time he has been inconsistent on the field. His best season was in 2010 when he caught 44 passes for 698 yards and two touchdowns. His 2011 season was cut short due to injury as he only appeared in five games and caught 15 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown. He has the ability to give defenses a headache, but he hasn't been able to fully tap into his potential and turn that potential into consistent success on the field. He's fast, elusive, and has solid hands--the only problem has been utilizing those skills on the field for an entire season, coupled with health issues. Morgan might not be the ideal No. 2 receiver that some Bengals fans envision, but he could be an intriguing option for Cincinnati if they are unable to obtain someone else or decide not to re-sign Andre Caldwell or Jerome Simpson. If Morgan were to be inserted in the right situation he has the potential to become a consistent down field threat.
Either of these players would represent a nice addition to the roster and depending on what the Bengals decide to do, one or maybe even both of them could end up in stripes next season. But as usual, only time will tell what the Bengals will do.