NEW ACQUISITIONS (three of four played on the team in 2012).
DE Michael Johnson: It's not illogical to question whether or not the Bengals actually addressed their pass rushing issues with Johnson -- however his contributions with Cincinnati reflect far more productivity than they had without him. Other factors also contributed to that: Geno Atkins wasn't himself, Mike Zimmer was gone, Wallace Gilberry wasn't a spot rusher and Paul Guenther didn't blitz as effectively. Would you hate me if I called Johnson an improved version of Robert Geathers?
LB A.J. Hawk: The backup plan if Vontaze Burfict isn't ready by the regular season opener -- Burfict is recovering from the nasty-worded microfracture surgery. There's also the concussions that twice impacted Burfict's season and drew enough concern back then that his season would be in jeopardy. Hawk provides the team with a quality backup player at all three positions -- all of which were significantly impacted by injury last season. Hawk is also the only player that the Bengals signed that hasn't been in a Bengals uniform before.
DT Pat Sims: Sims was signed to defend the run -- which has been the role that Domata Peko has played for nearly 10 years. Peko, entering the final year of his contract, probably isn't going anywhere (so go ahead and file that talking point into an envelope and burn the envelope... and then bury the lighter and then bury the shovel that buried the lighter).
CB Brandon Ghee: Welcome back, Ghee.
BENGALS WHO RE-SIGNED
OG Clint Boling: At this point last year, Boling was just another name on the team's depth chart who was recovering from an ACL injury. There wasn't much conversation about re-signing Boling during the regular season last year. Then, when the season came to another depressing conclusion, he became one of the team's most prized possessions and coveted players in free agency. Give him another a month and the only mention of Boling will be offseason reviews like this one. Wait... is that our fault?
LB Rey Maualuga: While solid as a SAM linebacker in '09 and '10, Maualuga hasn't been a fan favorite for most of this decade. Opinions on the linebacker plummeted in '11 when he replaced Dhani Jones, and struggled as a three-down linebacker -- mostly in coverage. Fans began to overlook his troubled production over the last two seasons when he was essentially turned into a two-down linebacker with the primary responsibility to stop the run.
PK Mike Nugent: If you position yourself to only look at Mike Nugent's conversion rate, then you're 1) being lazy and 2) sacrificing common sense for an irrelevant talking point. Of his misses in 2014, the Carolina shank is the obvious catastrophic miss (though he made a 38-yarder with two minutes remaining in the fourth to send the game into overtime). Nugent missed four field goals against the Ravens and Falcons collectively -- both games that the Bengals won (so who cares about those misses?). Another miss was against the New England Patriots, who blew out Cincinnati 43-17. There's the Carolina miss. And his seventh miss on the season was a 50-yarder at a stadium (Heinz) that notoriously hates 50 yarders. We're not excusing Nugent for failing to do his job on seven of 33 occasions last year. We're also not swept up by obsessive numbers watching -- actually we usually are, just not on this specific issue.
OT Eric Winston: Should we just go ahead and call Winston the A.J. Hawk of offensive tackles as the first backup at both positions?
DT Devon Still: We're glad he's back with the team during a spring that he'll never forget. However, if we're looking at strictly roster building with a squad focused on 2015, he has a long road ahead.
LB Emmanuel Lamur: He hasn't inked his tender yet... does anyone believe that another team will give Cincinnati a second-round pick and sign him to an offer sheet? There might be a four-year-old boy in North Korea...
TE Kevin Brock, CB Chris Lewis-Harris: Re-signed as exclusive-rights free agents.
OT Marshall Newhouse: Signed a two-year deal with the New York Giants... LOLOLOLOL.
CB Terence Newman: Signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Cincinnati may have been interested enough to sign Newman to the veteran minimum... but overall interest appeared minimal.
S Taylor Mays: Like Newman, interest in Mays wasn't that impressive. They were willing to re-sign him but on their terms (their terms = cheapest contract legally allowed by CBA).
DE Robert Geathers: Released by the team already, though we suspect that his career in Cincinnati isn't 100 percent over.
OL Mike Pollak: People say two things about Pollak. He has an injury issue and that there's more hype with Trey Hopkins... people that use the magical word of "watched film" tend to agree. By the way, you can end virtually every argument by using those words in nearly every situation.
WR Greg Little: With Marvin Jones out, A.J. Green in-and-out, and wide receiver roster on life support in the fourth quarter of the season, Little wasted/lost a massive opportunity to extend his NFL career.