When a team looks to continue building on the success (or eliminate the failures) from the previous season, they look toward signing a veteran that could fill a need. As fans, we all have our own perspective as to who the team should sign based on what we perceive as the team's various weaknesses. So with that in mind, I have put together a free agent wish list of those who I would like the Bengals to sign during this free agency period, which opens this Friday.
Vincent Jackson. After T.J. Houshmandzadeh's departure, teams easily focused their attention on Chad Ochocinco, taking away the big play potential from the offense. With the signing of Laveranues Coles, there was a hope that he could fill T.J.'s shoes shifting the focus away from Ochocinco. Coles struggled early and never became the threat coaches had hoped for, fueling speculation that he may be released. I believe that signing Vincent Jackson from the San Diego Chargers would not only bring the offense an additional deep threat, but his presence would also mean a tall receiver with great body control, becoming a red zone threat in jump-ball situations. He would surely command a nice paycheck, but he would make an instant impact on a team in need of another deep threat receiver to take some heat away from Chad. Currently Jackson is a restricted free agent and the Chargers have reportedly offered him the highest one year tender, allowing them to garner a first and third round draft pick, if the Charges elect not to match an offer sheet from another team.
Owen Daniels. Another area on offense that lacked in the passing game, was tight ends. Season ending injuries to Reggie Kelly, Ben Utecht and Chase Coffman, coupled with Dan Coats' inability to catch the football, forced the Bengals to rely on an unemployed tight end. Even though J.P. Foschi brought some stability to the position, the Bengals elected not to tender him a contract in the belief that they could sign him to a cheaper deal after March 5. As of now, this leaves the position in Coffman's hands; unfortunately he never appeared to have gained the confidence of the coaching staff due to his inability to grasp the offense. Signing Owen Daniels of the Houston Texans would strengthen the position with his reliable hands and ability to get down field. Over the past few seasons his catch total steadily rose from 63 in 2007 to 70 in 2008, and he was on pace for 80 catches in 2009 before his season ending ACL injury. His talents would provide the Bengals a pass catching tight end; something unknown to this team. Daniels is also a restricted free agent but no offer has been reportedly tendered as of this posting. With the ACL injury, I would not be surprised if the Texans offered him the lowest tender, which would provide Houston with no compensation if Owens were to accept another offer.
Elvis Dumervil. Antwan Odom set the NFL world on fire early in 2009 with six sacks in the first two games, including tying the team record of five sacks in one game against the Green Bay Packers. His season ended with a ruptured achilles tendon after six games at which time he was leading the league with eight sacks. Prior to Odom's injury, the defense had accumulated 16 sacks, nearly half of their season total of 34. Signing Elvis Dumervil from the Denver Broncos would provide the defense with a player who would be another threat to opposing quarterbacks. His long arms and large hands give him an ability to keep blockers off of his body, giving him better vision of the quarterback's location in the pocket. Dumervil’s addition would give a boost to an area on the defense that slowed after Odom's injury. Dumervil is a restricted free agent and no tender has been reportedly offered. Expect the Broncos to make a top tier tender in the near future unless a long term deal is made.
Barrett Ruud. The run defense greatly improved with the addition of Rey Maualuga, making an instant impact. However, when Maualuga was lost to injury late in the season, the rush defense suffered. Signing linebacker Barrett Ruud of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would give the defense one of the league's best tackling machines, finishing third last season with 142 tackles. His addition to a linebacking corps and defense that is gaining respect around the league would provide the depth needed to make a championship run, bearing in mind the Bengals may also lose the services of Rashad Jeanty. Ruud currently is a restricted free agent that has been offered the top tender that would give the Bucs a first and third round draft picks as compensation.
Jahri Evans. The Bengals' offensive line could be considered an area of concern. Allowing 29 sacks last season while still proving to be effective run blockers, giving the team's running game an average of 4.1 yards-per-rush, the team could always improve. To keep the offensive line together, they would have to re-sign Bobbie Williams who is an unrestricted free agent. If the Bengals do not achieve this, signing Jahri Evans of the New Orleans Saints would fill this void nicely. His pass blocking would be an upgrade over what Bobbie gave us last year, and his run blocking is solid. He is considered by the Saints as their top lineman allowing them to have a very effective running game, helping carry them to their first Super Bowl appearance and win. He carries a positive attitude and team first mentality, attributes that would fit in well with the current tone of the team. Evans is a restricted free agent who has been offered the highest tender with a first and third round offer, which is a steep price to pay for a right guard. This will give many teams pause.
I know the stakes are high for any of these players. The likelihood that the Bengals are going to make many high-profile moves in the market is low. Throwing money at top-level free agents is out of character for our team and isn't expected.
The level of free agency for these players is solely based on the outcome of any negotiations between the players' union and the NFL. If by some miracle there appears an 11th hour agreement between the two sides, this could all change. If not, Friday begins the uncapped season and these players will stay restricted free agents. So, please understand that this is solely a wish list. I know that there are a number of variables that will influence the outcome of this year’s free agency season for the Bengals.
With the possibility of 2010 becoming a non-cap year, some of this will not materialize. Heck, maybe none of it will. But I can wish, can’t I?