NFL Free Agency 2014: Tender amounts for restricted free agents

John Grieshop

The Cincinnati Bengals have three restricted free agents this year and we expect that the team will tender all three.

When chatting about Cincinnati's free agency plans this year, it's understandable that the topic of conversation orbits defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins -- two of the team's best starters from the 2013 squad that are entering free agency on March 11.

The Bengals have three restricted free agents this year: Linebacker Vincent Rey and wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Dane Sanzenbacher. According to Bengals.com, the Bengals are expected to offer a tender to all three -- the question then becomes, what are their compensation levels. Geoff Hobson concludes that the overall compensation for those three will be, roughly, "a total of about $5 million if they can’t reach multi-year deals before March 11."

Per the rules regarding restricted free agents, the Bengals have three qualifying levels of compensation that they can apply.

The maximum tender has a compensation level $3.113 million, which includes a first-round pick if another team signs that player to another offer sheet and the Bengals refuse to match. The second-level tender has a compensation level of $2.187 million with a second-round pick and the third, and final tender, is the original round compensation with a $1.431 million tender. Original round is based on where that player was originally drafted into the NFL -- if he's an undrafted free agent, the original team receives no compensation if that players signs an offer sheet and the original team doesn't match.

Andrew Hawkins: An excitable player that seemingly becomes a threat on offense, usually from anywhere on the field -- provided that he has open space (separation from coverage hasn't always been a strength of his). That being said, he'll rival Mohamed Sanu as the team's starting slot receiver.

However, based on his injury last season and lack of offensive production when he returned in week nine, the Bengals may risk an original round tender instead -- then match an offer sheet if another team enters the fray -- thinking that teams will just look at the NFL draft and free agency to find cheaper and younger (Hawkins turns 28 on March 10) options.

Prediction: Second-round tender ($2.187 million and second-round compensation if the Bengals refuse to match another team's offer sheet).

Vincent Rey: The one thing that confused me last year is that when Rey was given his opportunities to perform, he thrived. Yet Cincinnati didn't give him as many opportunities as we had thought they would, given his production compared to Rey Maualuga, who reclaimed his starting gig after returning from a mid-season injury.

For instance, Rey generated 15 tackles, three quarterback sacks, an interception and three passes defensed against the Baltimore Ravens in week 10. The following week, he added 12 tackles and a pass defensed against the Cleveland Browns. After Cincinnati's week 12 bye, Rey didn't play more than 30 defensive snaps in any game -- and he didn't play more than 12 in the final four, including the wild card loss against the Chargers.

Based on their effort to keep Rey on the field, and with Rey Maualuga entering 2014 under contract, I don't see the Bengals offering a compensation level higher than the original tender.

Prediction: Original round tender ($1.431 million and no compensation if Bengals refuse to match another team's offer sheet).

Dane Sanzenbacher: A quality player that the Bengals like, who can play special teams and slot receiver. Sanzenbacher posted six receptions in 2013 with 61 yards receiving. However, due to the team's roster being stocked with wide receivers, I wouldn't expect anything more than an original round tender.

Prediction: Original round tender ($1.431 million and no compensation if Bengals refuse to match another team's offer sheet).

Alternatives

Instead of applying a tender, the Bengals could sign any one of them to two-year deals, similar to what the team did with Cedric Peerman last year. It wouldn't be a surprise if the team signed Hawkins and Rey to respective two-year contracts instead of signing both to compensation-level tenders.

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