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Roundtable: Getting Ready For Free Agency

Just hours before the new league year officially begins, the fellas sit down to talk some free agency.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals aren't likely to make any moves on the first day of free agency and many believe they won't be able to re-sign Andre Smith. Who do you think is the most important free agent for them to re-sign other than Smith in the coming days?

Josh K. The Bengals seem to have a priority with Robert Geathers, Adam Jones and Terence Newman, so I'd say those are safe bets. Maybe one or two well-known free agents on the market, otherwise it'll be business as usual.

Brennen W. If I can't re-sign Andre Smith, then the next guy would be Adam Jones to me. He's super talented and there's not a lot of tread on the tires for a 29 year old. He's cleaned himself up, and he seems to love what he has going in Cincinnati. Between Hall, Kirkpatrick, and Jones, that's one of the most talented top three corners in the league. Only catch is the injury possibility of Kirkpatrick and Jones
Josh K. Wouldn't put it past the team to draft another cornerback, depending on Jones and Newman either.
Jason G. I'd have to go with Jones here too. I think he's not only the league's best third cornerback, but I think he can start opposite Leon Hall, or in place of Hall, if need be. Right after Jones would be Thomas Howard, depending on his health, of course.

Brennen W. Agreed, Thomas Howard was next for me too.
Jason G. I could see them drafting a corner as well. I am very anxious, though, to see what happens with Dre Kirkpatrick in 2013, though. I have high hopes that he can start.
Josh K. Howard has such a variable associated with him though. What's the condition of that knee? Obviously the player is going to say "I feel great". But how will he bounce back from it?

Andrew M. It's good that you brought up Thomas Howard. If healthy (of course), he would be an important piece of the Bengals linebacking corps. He could pick up as a weak-side linebacker especially if Burfict were to move to middle. I agree that Adam Jones seems to be a no-brainer particularly when you consider he'd come at a relatively low cost, but I think Thomas Howard isn't too far behind in that conversation, as Jason said.
Jason G. That's very true, which worries me about Howard. I just know that the ideal situation would be move Vontaze Burfict to MIKE, re-sign Howard as WILL and sign a new guy for SAM, but that entire plan would depend entirely on Howard. I hope his knee is good to go, but there's really no way to know for sure.
Josh K. I'm not convinced Burfict is an automatic move to MIKE and I'm not sure it's the best solution. He killed it last year as WILL.

Jason G. That's true. We all watched Rey Maualuga play well enough at SAM and then once he moved to MIKE, which everyone said was his natural position, much like Burfict, and once he moved, he was terrible.
Moving Burfict to MIKE is definitely a little scary.

Josh K. Here's where I fall on that. We KNOW what we got with Burfict at WILL. We don't know what will happen at MIKE. Maybe he dominates even more, maybe he goes down the Maualuga path. It's a debate of what's known and what's not.
When you think about it, it's a nice debate to have.
Andrew M. The saga of Maualuga certainly has kept me from being the biggest proponent toward Burfict moving to his "natural" position.
Brennen W. Personally, I have the utmost confidence that Burfict will excel wherever he plays. I think he's just that good. And that lets the team be more flexible in free agency/draft plans. Say Howard isn't healthy enough and we don't re-sign him. Then we can either take Arthur Brown as our new WILL and move Burfict to MIKE. Or Alec Ogletree as our new MIKE and Burfict stays at WILL.
Jason G. It is. WILL requires quite a bit of speed, though, and it's nice to know that Burfict could bring his athleticism to MIKE. However, Burfict's 40 time is slower than Maualuga's, if straight-line speed is used as an accurate judge of how fast someone is.
Brennen W. The Maualuga saga does give me second thoughts, but I just think that Maualuga and Burfict are completely different players on the field.
Jason G. How so, Brennen?

Brennen W. Burfict is a young playmaker who moves a lot faster than that 40 time. Like taking Mike Wallace down by the ankles, for example, that's my favorite play of Burfict's rookie year. Maualuga is far more hesitant and accepts blockers way too easily. And Maualuga stays away from the line of scrimmage, letting the ball come to him too far down the field, while Burfict charges holes with confidence. Maualuga guesses the wrong hole more than Burfict does. In coverage, Maualuga's 250-260 pound frame is just way too slow. Burfict can actually keep up with tight ends and running backs on wheel routes. In general, I think the speed and playmaking of Burfict are the biggest differences
And I think that translates to being able to play either position without much of a dropoff.
Jason G. I can tell that he does have a nose for the football and has a knack for reading offenses and just being around the football in general. That's something that we don't get a lot of from Maualuga. Another thing is Burfict's attitude, which I actually love. I think that the Bengals, and any other team, need a player on the defense with an attitude.

Brennen W. LOVE Burfict's attitude. Intangibles are another huge difference between Burfict and Maualuga.

Let's pretend that we already know the Bengals won't re-sign Andre Smith, do you think the Bengals can rely on Anthony Collins to start at right tackle, or do they need to find a new free agent right tackle, or even use their first-round draft pick on a new right tackle?

Josh K. Maybe for 2013 as a short-term solution, but the Bengals are clearly not envisioning Collins as a long-term starter, considering he's been around since 2008 with few opportunities.
Andrew M. I think in that scenario they draft a right tackle and have Anthony Collins start initially. I don't see Collins as the long-term solution but he's certainly as a stop-gap. The Bengals certainly have the picks this year and could even draft down if need be.

Brennen W. I don't think they can get away with Collins as new right tackle. He would be adequate in pass protection but there would be a significant downgrade from Andre in running the ball. That can't happen in this offense, cause Andy needs help. I think they would have to find a free agent or draft someone early.
Jason G. With as deep and talented as this year's draft class is at the tackle position, I think the team should go after a right tackle early in the draft, probably with the No. 21 overall pick. They could probably get a guy like D.J. Fluker at that point in the draft.
Replace an Alabama guy with an Alabama guy.

Brennen W. Man, I'd rather just re-sign Andre. Fluker is a good player, but so much can go wrong with rookie first round tackles.
Jason G. Very true. If they can re-sign Smith, they won't have to worry about filling that hole in the draft and can work on bringing in a safety or running back or linebacker with that first-round pick. They could even trade back.

Andrew M. What about Travelle Wharton as a stop-gap as well? Let's not forget that he's potentially a factor, and he has played right tackle.
Jason G. True, but his health would certainly be a factor in the Bengals' decision. I think we can all just agree that the best case scenario would be for the team to re-sign Smith.

Brennen W. I forgot he can play RT too.
But I don't trust Wharton at all. Very very middle of the road. Honestly, I would cut both Wharton (~$3.733 million per year) and even Cook ($2.5 million per year) to make room for Andre. I really like the line of Whitworth, Boling, Robinson, Zeitler, Smith. But in that case, we would need to take an interior lineman in the middle of the draft for depth.

Josh K. The Bengals wouldn't move Wharton to tackle. If they're going to keep him, which is questionable, they need a backup guard. I'd more expect Cincinnati to put together a competition between Clint Boling and Wharton at left guard. One wins, the other backs up the guards.