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Bengals offseason plans should include extensions for 2016 free agents

The Bengals have a projected $33 million under the 2015 salary cap, which hasn't been finalized. The '15 cap could be between $138 million and $141 million. Naturally this means extensions for 2016 free agents.

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According to ESPN, the Cincinnati Bengals could have nearly $33 million available under the 2015 salary cap, with only six to seven teams proudly boasting such comparable financial freedoms to secure megastar free agents (LOL, right).

Most likely the Bengals will sign a couple of new free agents to fill the ranks while the team remains committed to their own -- and that's after reaching extensions with linebacker Vontaze Burfict, quarterback Andy Dalton, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins. We're naturally talking about 2016 but names like Emmanuel Lamur (restricted), Clint Boling, Rey Maualuga, Cedric Peerman and Mike Nugent will factor into Cincinnati's offseason plans over the next two months.

ESPN's numbers are educated projections that apply 2015 contracts, rollover money from 2014, combining against the projected 2015 salary cap. The question is: What will the 2015 salary cap be?

Per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter last December, the 2015 salary cap was projected between $138.6 million and $141.8 million -- a pedestrian increase from the 2014 cap number of $133 million... which itself was a $10 million jump from 2013 ($123 million), which blew away projections.

Due to the limited increase in 2015, the NFL Players Association are issuing their own projections. Their belief is that the lower expectations being publicized by the league will greatly impact big-name free agents who will sign hefty deals next month.

"The last few years, you have seen various stories reported by some of you in the room … where you have reported things about the salary cap from ownership that has turned out to not be true," Smith said in the media conference via USA Today.

"We believe that that not only misrepresents the economic reality of how the salary cap works, but our concern is that those inaccurate projections may have a negative consequence on some players who are trying to negotiate new contracts."

In other words... projections are crap.

We're not anticipating the Bengals to bulldoze their way through free agent signings next month. However, of significant importance, the team will have, at least, 11 starting-quality players hitting free agency next year. While some shrug their shoulders with indifference, there's a good chance that Cincinnati will be working extensions this year as opposed to next. If Cincinnati holds true to their own traditions, these extensions could start rolling through in early September. Some of Cincinnati's free agents in 2016 (not all):

A.J. Green
Andre Smith
Andrew Whitworth
Kevin Zeitler
Marvin Jones
Mohamed Sanu

Leon Hall
George Iloka
Dre Kirkpatrick
Reggie Nelson
Vincent Rey
Adam Jones
Robert Geathers
Wallace Gilberry
Brandon Thompson
Jayson DiManche