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The Cincinnati Bengals lost a handful of players on Wednesday, but most were expected departures. Here are some thoughts on free agency and what we can expect.
+ THE QUARTERBACK QUESTION: The Cincinnati Bengals lost free agents on Wednesday, but DEFCON levels remain at a steady four. Linebacker Manny Lawson signed a four-year deal with the Buffalo Bills worth $12 million with $7 million paid during the first two seasons. Place kicker Josh Brown signed a one-year deal with the New York Giants soon after. Neither player were expected back in 2013, so the losses were expected (whether they signed with someone else or not).
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski came as a slight surprise, who signed a three-year contract with one of Cincinnati's intra-division rivals in Pittsburgh. But then we're losing a quarterback who completed only 44.8 percent of his passes with the Bengals. Knowing the play book can't be that much of a forced necessity.
Question is, what now?
Though the common thought is Cincinnati will draft a quarterback for an eventual backup role, we're still projecting that the Bengals will sign a veteran quarterback at some point during the offseason. It makes the most sense. Ask yourself how comfortable Cincinnati would feel with a rookie quarterback playing the first week if Andy Dalton suffered an injury. Then ask yourself why you'd ask yourself such a morbid question.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, recently released from Buffalo, could be an option if potential starting gigs are unavailable to him. And we'd be alright with that; he's a better quarterback now than when he left. But if you're looking for long-term backup quarterback solutions, look somewhere else.
+ VETERANS LEAVING GIVES RISE TO OTHERS: One of Cincinnati's departures during free agency was defensive tackle Pat Sims, who signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday. We wanted Sims and had the feeling that the team did too. It was believed that Sims wouldn't return without a multi-year deal, but then signed a one-year deal with the Raiders. Figure that out for us.
On the other hand, older players eventually leave, giving rise to the younger players teams invest draft picks with. Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, last year's second and third round picks respectively, didn't get much of an opportunity to play. Now they will.
Think of it this way. There was an overwhelming negative reaction when Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanane left for free agency last year. What happened? I'll tell you. The Bengals actually got better. Keep that in mind when Cincinnat keeps building through the draft and puts younger players in place to eventually fill in for departing veterans. Or bemoan how they're not signing players, of which many played with teams that never won.
Other Quick Thoughts:
+ Surprised that $16 million over four seasons with a $4 million signing bonus was all that it took for Detroit to sign running back Reggie Bush. All things considered, offered the same deal and I doubt Bush picks the Bengals over Lions. Not because it's the Bengals. Former players like Barry Sanders were on the phone pleading Detroit's case, which helped significantly. When was the last time we've heard about former Bengals players making a case to non-Bengals free agents?
+ Cliff Avril, two years, $15 million with the Seattle Seahawks. He lost that bet.
+ We said it on Wednesday but we'll say it again. Rey Maualuga leaving Arizona keeps the door open for a possible return as Cincinnati's SAM linebacker; which also screws younger linebackers Brandon Joiner and Dontay Moch, and even draft bust Aaron Maybin who is looking to rebuild his career.
+ Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis reiterated on Wednesday that their first priority right now is re-signing Andre Smith. The Philadelphia Eagles are the only team that's been mentioned having interest, but it's unknown how much. Currently there's no planned visits or talks that we know of.
+ Haven't heard anything about Thomas Howard, Adam Jones or Terence Newman. That's a good sign, but if Cincinnati wait too long, other teams will find areas on their respective teams to improve and that's bad news.
+ Running back Mike Goodson isn't projected as the second-part of a two-back system with BenJarvus Green-Ellis... if Cincinnati signs him. Goodson would be more of a third-down back; think Brian Leonard's replacement. Both players scored approximately the same pass blocking grades, so we're not losing (nor gaining). Ultimately the feeling is that more likely Cincinnati will draft a running back within the first three rounds during the 2013 NFL draft.