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15 Bengals could play their final game in stripes in Week 17

Kevin Zeitler, Dre Kirkpatrick, Domata Peko and Brandon LaFell headline a lengthy list of Bengals set to hit free agency in 2017.

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Fifteen Bengals players could be playing their final game in stripes when the Bengals take on the Ravens in Week 17 of the 2016 NFL season.

Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko have spent 11 seasons each with the Bengals, and both are set to hit free agency in March 2017. While Whitworth has said he wants to be back with the Bengals next season, as a left tackle, Peko hasn’t commented on his impending free agency, yet. It’s possible Peko could retire this offseason; he’s 32-years-old and will turn 33 during the 2017 NFL season. Peko’s play this season has been uninspired, while Whitworth remains one of the best left tackles in the NFL at 35-years-old.

The Bengals’ top two free agency additions from 2016, Brandon LaFell and Karlos Dansby, will also be free agents this offseason. LaFell has earned a second contract, but, the Bengals would likely be better off cutting ties with Dansby, whose play declined rapidly this season.

Rookie contracts will be expiring for 2012 first round draft picks Dre Kirkpatrick and Kevin Zeitler. Kirkpatrick is finally playing at a high level after the Bengals spent the last five years developing his talent. For much of the season, he’s been the Bengals’ best defensive back and he should maintain his starting role in 2017. Zeitler is one of the best guards in the league. His demand in free agency will be quite high and it may be difficult to retain his services. It would be in the Bengals’ best interest to re-sign both Zeitler and Kirkpatrick, but, we’ll likely be sitting on the edge of our seats until news on that duo is finalized. Both players will likely demand five figure annual salaries. Expect Zeitler's contract to be quite similar to the five-year, $50,000,000 contract Pittsburgh guard David DeCastro signed last offseason. DeCastro's deal has an average salary of $10,000,000 per year and included a $16,000,000 fully guaranteed signing bonus.

Margus Hunt, T.J. Johnson, Eric Winston, Rex Burkhead, Cedric Peerman, Wallace Gilberry, Brandon Thompson, Chykie Brown and Randy Bullock are also set to hit free agency in March.

Burkhead and Peerman both becoming free agents is worrisome as they are the Bengals’ No. 3 and No. 4 running backs. Giovani Bernard will spend most, if not all, of the offseason recovering from a torn ACL, while Hill has had a season to forget, other than on the touchdown front. If the Bengals lose Burkhead and Peerman, expect them to draft at least one running back in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Bengals 2017 free agents

Player Pos. 2016 Team Type Current APY Guarantees
Player Pos. 2016 Team Type Current APY Guarantees
Andrew Whitworth LT Bengals UFA $9,000,000 $2,000,000
Domata Peko 4-3 DT Bengals UFA $4,500,000 $4,400,000
Brandon LaFell WR Bengals UFA $2,500,000 $1,000,000
Dre Kirkpatrick CB Bengals UFA $2,155,749 $7,840,065
Karlos Dansby 4-3 OLB Bengals UFA $2,000,000 $700,000
Kevin Zeitler RG Bengals UFA $1,886,050 $6,125,446
Eric Winston RT Bengals UFA $1,090,000 $80,000
Cedric Peerman RB Bengals UFA $1,065,000 $250,000
Margus Hunt 4-3 DE Bengals UFA $917,775 $1,049,892
Wallace Gilberry 4-3 DE Bengals UFA $885,000 $0
Brandon Thompson 4-3 DT Bengals UFA $840,000 $50,000
Chykie Brown CB Bengals UFA $760,000 $0
Randy Bullock K Bengals UFA $675,000 $0
T.J. Johnson C Bengals RFA $600,000 $0
Rex Burkhead RB Bengals UFA $565,550 $102,200

Which Bengals are you most worried about losing in free agency? Who should the Bengals prioritize when it comes to re-signing their own free agents?

Free agency key:

Restricted Free Agent (RFA): A player whose contract has expired and has fewer than four tenured years in the league. He may sign an "Offer Sheet" with any other team upon becoming an RFA, but his original team has seven days to match any offer he receives. If the original team does not match the offer, compensation will be awarded in the form of draft picks from the signing team. The round and quantity of picks are determined by the "Qualifying Offer" made by the player's original team. If an RFA is tendered a minimum qualifying offer, the compensation is the equivalent of the round in which that player was originally selected. If that player was originally an undrafted rookie free agent, no compensation is awarded.

Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA): A player whose contract has expired and has four or more tenured years in the league. He may sign with any other team with no restrictions.

Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA): A player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. His original team must make a contract offer by the league imposed deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. No compensation is awarded for losing EFAs.