Offseasons are tricky for the Cincinnati Bengals, usually related to the avoidance of grandiose amounts of cash. HOW COULD THEY LET ______ GET AWAY! Players in their prime, well before their 30th birthday have left, replaced by unproven rookies and aging veterans. Whether our goggles are saturated with roses with a harem of expensive beer that tastes of Kool-aid optimism, it's without a doubt frustrating.
Yet most teams face the same dilemma. Keep their cubs or risk free agency in the hopes that a lesser demand humbles their financial expectations, returning to their original teams because of familiarity. Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith and defensive end Michael Johnson will enter free agency in early March. Do they keep both? Can they keep both? Are the youthful eyes of Cincinnati's front office looking beyond this year?
"I think they'll get Michael Johnson done," said Dave Lapham, longtime Bengals color analyst tells the Dayton Daily News. "If they have to (franchise) tag him, they have to tag him. He'll definitely be back. I think Adam Jones will be back. I would think the way Terence (Newman) played, he'll be back."
In late December NFL.com released tentative franchise numbers with defensive ends at $10.984 million and offensive linemen at $9.66 million.
"Rey Maualuga? They've got to make a call there," Lapham added. "They've got to make a lot of calls. You can't re-sign everybody. At some point you have to make some decisions."
With the emergence of Vontaze Burfict, it minimizes the need for Maualuga. Mike Zimmer knows what's wrong, could coach him up. That is if the team wants to invest on a linebacker that's been more disappointment than celebration. Physical attributes are there. It's in his mind.
The other free agent of significant note, in terms of money, is Andre Smith.
"There’s going to be more than one team in the league that’s going to offer him premiere right tackle money," Lapham tells the Dayton Daily News. "They have to decide if they want to match that kind of an offer or spend it elsewhere. Can they play Andre and still play the other guys they want to pay and extend Geno and all the other things they'd like to get done?"
According to reports the Bengals will have as much as $55.1 million available under the cap. Yet those numbers could quickly lessen with Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, as well as A.J. Green and Andy Dalton when their contracts expire after the 2014 season.
It's not a matter of urgency; just fiscal responsibility. Going all Tampa Bay in free agency assures nothing. Through the draft and key components through free agency, the Bengals have reached the postseason in consecutive seasons.
The window to sign players with expiring contracts will be open for some time. But that's the thing with teams that's proven to sustain success year after year. Free agency with core players on expiring rookie contracts will always weigh heavy decisions. It's those teams that replace them without a hitch, that form model organizations, making the postseason every year.