Running Back: Looking for a speed compliment or 3rd string back.
The Bengals really only have one secured roster spot with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and then the 4th/Special Teams spot between Cedric Peerman and Daniel Herron. We could see one draft pick and one free agent signing this offseason.
Cincinnati's running back depth chart currently costs $5.4M in 2013. Playoff teams in 2012 averaged $7.9M at the position and I suggest not going over $10M annually. The Bengals could sign a mid-level free agent at about $3M annually and still draft a RB within the first two rounds without going over the position cap. With a team in desperate need of a run game to rely on, pushing that cap may be wise.
- Reggie Bush
- Felix Jones
- Mike Goodson
- Peyton Hillis
- Kevin Smith
Latest reports suggest that the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals are front-runners for Bush. But those things change.
Wide Receiver: Looking for a return man, special steamer and fifth wide receiver. We're not seeing Cincinnati going after big names here with young guys on the roster.
- Josh Cribbs
- Ted Ginn
- Donnie Avery
- Louis Murphy
- Brandon Tate
Linebacker: Need an athletic WILL and big SAM. They normally like 3-4 OLB as their SLB and look for a healthy Howard back at WLB.
This may be the most likely spot to target a free agent. They're currently scheduled to spend only $3.5M on their LB depth. Playoff teams that run a 4-3 based defense averaged $9.2M last year. If we set the linebacker cap at $10M, the Bengals have plenty of flexibility.
Thomas Howard, if healthy, is probably their first target to play WILL with Emmanuel Lamar backing him up/rotating in. The SAM position is really where we could see some money spent. Daryl Smith and Victor Butler are two guys I could see interest in. Cheap labor (draft picks) isn't a must here because how much they are below the suggested cap at LB [Note: Bengals have spoken about interest in re-signing Rey Maualuga as SAM].
- Thomas Howard
- Daryl Smith
- Victor Butler
- Phillip Wheeler
- Erik Walden
- Quentin Groves
- Geno Hayes
- Justin Durant
Safety: Looking for a smart, veteran, cheap option opposite Nelson. This could be somebody that gets eventually replaced by an incoming rookie draft pick. Zimmer rotates the SS and FS, so we don't have to get too specific in our targets.
- Gerald Sensabaugh
- Dwan Landry
- Corey Lynch
- Abe Elam
A couple other positions that will be asked about: cornerback and defensive end.
Without re-signing Adam Jones and Terence Newman, the Bengals are currently paying roughly $15.88M to their Cornerback depth chart. Playoff teams spent $12.25M in 2012. They do have Jason Allen on the books at $4.1M in 2013. Cutting him could open the door for Pacman's contract, but not both he and Newman.
Bottom line is Dre Kirkpatrick will need to be penciled into one of the starting spots in 2013 and don't look for a high priced free agent at this position.
Both starters will return in Dunlap ($940,000) and Michael Johnson ($11M) and now Gilberry becomes that third defensive in the rotation with a new three-year deal ($6.75M total). With impending deals for either Johnson or Dunlap, you have to think this isn't a position they can spend free agent money on. Maybe Robert Geathers is re-signed for very cheap. Any talent added hear should be cheap labor in the form of draft picks.