NFL free agency will be here soon and the Bengals have several players who will be among the top players to hit the market at their respective positions.
Marvin Jones is easily one of the two or three best pass-catchers set to hit the market, and he could command a deal paying him like a No. 1 receiver after spending much of his career as a second or third option in Cincinnati's offense.
George Iloka is one of the best overall players hitting the market after he was playing at a Pro Bowl-caliber level in 2014 before injuries slowed him down in 2015. He's easily one of the best safeties hitting the market, so he too is going to get a big-money deal.
The same cannot be said of cornerback Adam Jones and safety Reggie Nelson. While they were easily among the best at their positions in 2015, the pair of 32-year-old defensive backs aren't going to get big long-term deals this offseason, but they're still two of the better players hitting free agency.
All of this is why you'll find one or more of these guys mentioned among any ranking of the top free agents for this offseason. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus and ESPN tabbed Adam Jones as one of his top sleeper free agents.
Jones is 32 years old (he will be 33 in September) and has a long line of baggage to his name, but is still playing cornerback at an extremely high level. Teams targeting Jones in 2015 had a passer rating of just 60.7, the fifth-best mark in the league. He allowed just 9.7 yards per completion and only one touchdown the entire season. Jones isn't a long-term solution for anybody but is still playing like one of the better corners in the league, and could be a very good short- to medium-term option.
PFF's Matt Claassen has Jones among his top-10 free agent corners.
4. Adam Jones
Jones has been a solid player in the Bengals' secondary since signing with the team in 2011. He has never finished with a below-average coverage grade in the PFF-era. He's coming off his second-highest coverage grade over that time, and allowed a passer rating of 60.0 when targeted by opposing quarterbacks. One weakness for Jones, though, is his propensity for missed tackles, with 35 over the last three seasons. Jones turns 33 years old in September, and would really only be a short-term solution, but he could certainly help tighten up a secondary as an outside corner.
As for Nelson and Iloka, PFF's Michael Renner tabbed those two among his top-10 free agent safeties.
3. George Iloka
A three-year starter for the Bengals, the former fifth-round pick is one of the most complete safeties hitting free agency this offseason. His run defense grade over the last two seasons is +4.7, while his coverage grade over the same span is +7.2. Iloka has the size (6-foot-4-inches, 225 pounds) that some teams will covet to match up with tight ends, even if he wasn't used often in that role in Cincinnati.
4. Reggie Nelson
The other half of one of the best safety duos in football last season, Nelson was certainly the more talented player in coverage. At 32 years old, though, how long will he maintain that ability? Over the past five seasons, Nelson has a +33.1 coverage grade, and is coming off the second-highest graded season of his career. The Bengals played a lot of split safety looks, and Nelson is better suited for a deep safety role.
Bleacher Report's Richard Janvrin pegged Nelson as the 50th-best free agent this offseason, and mentioned teams who may come after him.
At age 32, Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson did not appear to skip a beat in 2015, posting his best PFF grade since 2012. Nonetheless, Nelson showed he's still one of the best safeties in football in terms of coverage skills, tying for fourth with Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. While age may be a factor, Nelson is still one of the better safeties in the NFL.
Possible Suitors: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons
That same list had Iloka as the 46th-best free agent this offseason:
Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka is another young safety that is set to hit the open market this offseason. While he didn't post a top-20 cornerback grade in 2015, Iloka has posted positive grades in all three of his NFL seasons. With fellow Bengals safety Reggie Nelson sit to hit free agency, the Bengals need to make some critical decisions in their secondary.
Possible Suitors: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers , Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons
As for Marvin Jones, he came in at 37th overall on Janvrin's list:
With Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery all but a franchise tag away from returning to Chicago, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones becomes the top available free-agent wide receiver. In 2015, Jones saw 99 targets and caught 69 passes for 848 yards and four touchdowns, including the playoffs.
Possible Suitors: Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams
FOX Sports didn't have Jones on any free agent ranking list, but they did point out five teams who should target him this offseason. They are the Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and even the Bengals simply re-signing him. Per Over the Cap, all five of those teams will have more than $20 million in cap space this offseason with a need at the receiver position.
Right tackle Andre Smith is often forgotten because the Bengals drafted two offensive tackles this past season with the expectation that Smith would leave this offseason. Though he's had a so-so past two years, Smith is still one of the top lineman hitting the market, and NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal tabbed Smith as one of his top overall free agents.
17. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals right tackle: How will Smith react to getting paid big bucks (again)? While his career has included some ups and downs, Smith has often been a top-shelf starter.
All of this serves as a reminder that the Bengals have several key players hitting the market, and getting them back in stripes will be no easy task.