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Cincinnati Bengals Should Look To The New Orleans Saints During Free Agency

The difficulty that the New Orleans Saints are having signing quarterback Drew Brees to a contract could present opportunities for a team like the Cincinnati Bengals, still requiring components to help the team improve their overall talent. Though there's no doubt that Brees will eventually return to New Orleans (think Franchise Tag), the more this process drags out, the less likely New Orleans will be able to keep several of their high profile free agents. Dan Pompei with the National Football Post writes:

It’s possible Marques Colston will be a former Saint in the near future. The Saints have made no attempts to re-sign the star wide receiver up to this point. The front office has been pre-occupied with trying to work out a new deal for Drew Brees. If the Saints can’t sign Brees, they likely will use the franchise tag on him, giving them one less way to retain Colston. Also complicating the issue is the pending free agency of guard Carl Nicks. Given the cash outlay this team will be facing, the Saints may have to choose between Colston and Nicks.

Interestingly enough the Cincinnati Bengals have a need for an experienced wide receiver opposite of A.J. Green. With Jerome Simpson's legal issues (and entering free agency) and Andre Caldwell entering free agency, the Bengals will need to team Green with an effective receiver, threatening enough to help Green and reliable enough to help quarterback Andy Dalton. Colston has put together five 1,000-yard seasons during his six-year career with 48 touchdowns. SB Nation's New Orleans site Canal Street Chronicles believes that a three-year deal worth $10 million could keep Colston around. Does anyone believe that?

Though he doesn't have the numbers Colston has, wide receiver Robert Meachem is also entering free agency. A speedy receiver with a recorded 4.39 at the 2007 NFL Combine, Meachem could could provide an outside threat, helping to free Green in the process, but giving Green another option in undercoverage.

But the free agent that could benefit the Bengals as much as anyone will be an offensive lineman. A noted pass and run blocker, Carl Nicks has graded as one of the league's top offensive guards since 2009 according to Pro Football Focus (top rated in 2010 and second-rated in 2011). Larry Holder with writes:

Nicks could easily be considered a top-five 2012 free agent at any position. Nicks is widely considered one of, if not the best guard in the NFL. He's one of the main reasons Brees stayed upright throughout the most potent passing season in history along with a vastly improved Saints running game.

Signing him will be complicated. If the Saints remain consumed with getting Brees signed to a long-term deal, Evans could enter free agency, indirectly thanks in part to the contract that the Saints gave to their other offensive guard.

The Saints signed Jahri Evans to a seven-year deal worth $56.7 million on May 5, 2010 making him the richest offensive guard in the NFL.

You can assume that Nicks will command something similar. With Cincinnati reportedly having over $40 million available in cap space, with the eventual arrival of a salary cap minimum in 2013, it makes sense to address the team's offensive line with a guard that would directly help Cincinnati dig into that salary cap to surpass the minimum with a talented player that the team desperately needs.