Many Bengals fans may be frustrated with the lack of the team's aggressiveness in free agency, especially considering the amount of money they have to spend. However, ESPN's AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley lists the team, along with the Browns, as the division's winners when it comes to free agency while the Steelers and Ravens are considered losers.
Cincinnati Bengals: Winners. You can't really call the Bengals "losers" because they've only lost one starter from last season's playoff team, and Cincinnati wasn't interested in bringing back outside linebacker Manny Lawson (signed with Buffalo). The biggest criticism is the Bengals haven't been aggressive in free agency. Cincinnati is one of three teams that haven't signed a free agent from another team this offseason. The Bengals have been active in keeping their team intact, re-signing nine of their own free agents. That list includes three starters (linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive ends Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers), kicker Mike Nugent and punter Kevin Huber. The Bengals will feel more like winners if they can retain their top priority, offensive tackle Andre Smith. With about $30 million in salary-cap room remaining, Cincinnati is looking to bring back cornerback Terence Newman and extend the contract of defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The Bengals also need to address voids at strong safety and outside linebacker.
The Bengals and the Browns are both had money to spend while the Ravens and Steelers were hard up against the cap. The Ravens and Steelers have purged productive players to get under the cap while the Bengals and Browns have been able to avoid doing that. The Browns have been more active, but the Bengals came into free agence focused on re-signing their own. So far, they've done that.
If the Bengals can re-sign both Andre Smith and Terence Newman, this offseason will officially be considered a success, especially if they add Thomas Howard into the mix.
The Bengals are considered by many to be in the best shape of any team in the division. If they make it to the playoffs in 2013, it will be the third year in a row, which has never happened in franchise history.