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We're going through the Cincinnati Bengals free agents and breaking them down into multiple categories. This is our first, which is the must re-sign list.
The Cincinnati Bengals have many free agents entering free agency this year, some unrestricted, restricted and exclusive-rights. We'll go through all of the free agents today and argue for the team to either re-sign them, ignore them or at the very least, we're listening. First our re-sign immediately list.
DE Michael Johnson. Arguably the top free agent, Bengals.com beat writer Geoff Hobson labeled Johnson with the early lead for the franchise tag if the Bengals and the 2009 third-round draft selection are unable to sign a long-term deal. Johnson finished the season with 11.5 quarterback sacks, which ranks fifth in franchise history (if we include Coy Bacon's 22 sack-season in 1976).
OT Andre Smith. The first two seasons with Smith were a waste, which led the Bengals to decline a two-year option written in Smith's rookie contract. He finally stepped it up over the course of the past two seasons, becoming the top offensive player and most balanced offensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus. Smith could be costly and obviously up for discussion for the franchise tag if a long-term deal isn't reached.
CB Adam Jones. Jones is no Leon Hall, who is often tasked with the opposing team's best players, but he's as dynamic as anyone. Aggression in coverage has hurt him but it's also led to much many more incomplete passes this year. Though Jones didn't generate an interception this year, he held opposing receivers to a 53.6 completion percentage and an opposing quarterback rating of 81.9. He won't break the bank like Hall, but he'll be worth every dime, especially when you consider he's the best kick returner on the team.
Something else going for the Bengals is that teams in the NFL are generally turned off from the risk of having Jones on the team in regards to off-the-field issues, so his overall value should remain limited. Yes he's been on his best behavior but there's always the risk of something surfacing, which happened last year.
DT Pat Sims. There's no doubt that when Sims plays, the Bengals rushing defense is better overall. Granted that argument didn't play out on Saturday, the team's overall averages dramatically improves when he plays. Yet depending on how much Sims asks for and how well negotiations go, the Bengals may allow Sims to hit the free agency market, comfortable with Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, last year's rookies at defensive tackle. They did that last year and Sims eventually returned at a value because no one else signed him.
DE Wallace Gilberry. Signed off the street to play Week 3 against the Washington Redskins, Gilberry ended up finishing third on the team with 6.5 quarterback sacks, a forced fumble and ten quarterback pressures -- most of which were generated during the second half of the season. We're not sure if the Bengals will be able to re-sign both Johnson and Gilberry, but we doubt Gilberry will be costly to reacquire. It might be a bit much to label him as a "re-sign immediately" category, but the depth on this defensive line is worth it.
P Kevin Huber. Damn fine season, punter. Damn fine. Huber set career highs in average (46.6) and punts inside the 20-yard line (33). Both are franchise records.