+ Thomas Howard visits the Miami Dolphins.
Howard, who led Cincinnati in tackles during his first season in '11, suffered a season-ending knee injury during practice heading into the second week of the season. As an unexpected result, it gave rise to Cincinnati's rookie phenom in Vontaze Burfict. Yet it still sidelined one of Cincinnati's best defensive players.
Theories thus grew. Would Burfict move inside or would the Bengals keep the now second-year player at WILL, where Howard was stationed most of his time beforehand? The answer generates a domino effect; the frustrating variables. Keep Burfict at WILL and there's no need for Howard, currently an unrestricted free agent. How comfortable does Cincinnati feel signing Howard to a long-term contract and what's the condition of the knee he tore last year? We could see a one or two-year offer from Cincinnati being overridden by a four-year contract in Miami. And frankly we could see no interest from Cincinnati whatsoever, all in the name of "youth movement".
Another perspective; Howard didn't play last year and the Bengals defense still ranked inside the top-ten. That says something.
+ Do you think with Hue Jackson's history with Darrius Heyward-Bey or Michael Huff will prompt a look at both?
One reader asked the question that's been sitting in my mind since both players were released. It wouldn't be beyond Jackson's personality to suggest at least a workout, maybe even vouching for them. However you have to also factor their relationships. Heyward-Bey's relationship with Jackson, who called plays in Oakland, was rocky at best due to a reduction of snaps. Though we don't see Jackson being a roadblock if the Bengals are interested.
If you examine needs, the Bengals have a greater use for Michael Huff than they do Heyward-Bey (though some will disagree). Before making the full time transition to cornerback, Michael Huff graded as the second-best safety according to Pro Football Focus in 2010; we know he can ball, especially in coverage. To be perfectly honest, we don't see why Jackson isn't tapping someone's shoulder and saying, "So, I have a suggestion...".
+ Despite Terence Newman's Thursday with the Oakland Raiders, I still see him returning for another one-year deal. The Bengals want him. Cincinnati figures an early favorite in a division weakened by free agency (unless you're in Cleveland). Newman has every opportunity to start on a defense run by a defensive coordinator that he likes. How can Oakland compete with that?
That being said, we've also developed the feeling that Cincinnati is continuing this youth movement that began two years ago. Favorable returns with Trevor Robinson, Kevin Zeitler, Clint Boling, A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Vontaze Burfict, Mohamed Sanu only reenforces our belief that the Bengals heavily favor the draft more than we think (and thus explains the inactivity this week).
Manny Lawson has already left for Buffalo, while Newman and Howard are checking other teams. There's other potential surprises that the Bengals have waiting on the current roster (Emmanuel Lamur, Dre Kirkpatrick, Brandon Joiner, Aaron Maybin, Dontay Moch) and through the NFL draft.
Hell. They allowed Pat Sims to leave without much resistance, who just completed his fifth season. because Cincinnati has two younger options waiting in the wings. If this team gets any younger, I'm going develop an old man's complex soon enough. But three postseasons in the last four year? Who are we suggest anything?
+ Ted Ginn, Jr... I'm listening.
+ Dan Skuta visiting with the San Francisco 49ers is interesting and if he leaves, Cincinnati loses a versatile player that excelled on special teams.
+ What's going on, Bernard Scott?
+ Those who think that the Bengals can't improve without making a splash in free agency, must have forgotten about guys like Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and A.J. Green. They've helped Cincinnati improve each season they've been in the league. Home grown talent developing and improving like that is greater than almost any free agent signing.
+ Think Robert Geathers will earn his contract as long as you stop thinking of him as a pass rusher (hint: that's not all that they do). At the same time, he should be under pressure for it. It's not like his side has been under lockdown when opposing offenses run the football. Ultimately I don't see him finishing out his new deal. But if he retires as a Bengal, I'm alright with that.
+ Bruce Gradkowski... unfollowed.
+ The fact that so few teams have gone after Greg Jennings makes me think the Bengals were correct in not expressing much interest.
+ Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones should be given one more season before talk of a No. 2 receiver runs rampant. Let's not forget what this offense did when Sanu was given a chance.