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Bengals Bytes (2/18): What's really wrong?

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What has really been holding the Bengals back? Sports Illustrated takes a look at what the Bengals should do this offseason. A list of each team's worst contract, and why Troy Polamalu has been distant from the Steelers.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson's Year Creates Tough Situation For Bengals
Before the 2015 season, Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson was your typical safety. He was good at helping with the run and occasionally he would intercept a pass or two. Beyond everything, Nelson’s main role with the Bengals was as the leader of the defense and it seemed like a position he was destined to retain for the foreseeable future. But Nelson’s career best 2015 season may change everything.

Offseason Outlook: Cincinnati Bengals
Next season’s playoff race begins this spring as all 32 teams retool their rosters, so it’s time to take a look at what each franchise must do for a better season in 2016. Next up? The Bengals, who need to make moves on offense in order to avoid any sort of regression in the wake of Hue Jackson’s departure.

What’s Really Holding The Bengals Back?
The Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the most successful NFL franchises, over the past few years. Since 2011, the Bengals have been as successful as some of the elite teams. The team has turned around its losing ways and gained respect with once skeptical analysts. With the turnaround seemingly complete, there’s still something holding them back. What’s really causing the problem?

Lots of mocks, little consensus
Even though the NFL Scouting Combine doesn’t get going until next week, Mock Draft season is in full swing. And at this early stage of the game — no Combine workouts, no pro days and free agency is still three weeks away — the predicted picks for the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 24 are all over the board. Here is a sampling of dozens of mocks already out there.

Marvin Lewis' coaching tree could yield spots for Bengals free agents
When it comes to free agency, a player's decision often comes down to any preexisting relationships he has with players on teams or members of the coaching staffs. Just look at Terence Newman, the 37-year-old cornerback who signed with the Vikings last offseason in large part because he knew what to expect from head coach Mike Zimmer. Bengals fans will recall that Newman spent three seasons with Zimmer in Cincinnati, where the coach was his defensive coordinator. Prior to that, they worked together in Dallas at the start of Newman's career.

Hobson's Choice: feeling a draft
The greatest job in the world, never mind sports, is sports writing. Think about it. The crazy loons pay you to write about sports. So I consider becoming a GM a demotion. And the next GM of the Bengals will be the third, behind Paul and Mike Brown. But if you forced me into the chair on March 9, the day free agency starts, I’d go after wide receivers.

Random Bytes

2016 NFL Mock Drafts : Mock draft 2.0: 49ers land Goff
With the 24th pick in Daniel Jeremiah's Mock Draft 2.0, the Cincinnati Bengals select Ohio State free safety Vonn Bell. Bell lacks ideal size, but he's very instinctive and he gets his hands on a lot of footballs.

Every NFL team's absolute worst contract
The bengals are one of the harder teams on which to find a bad deal, but this is the closest one. Maualuga has never been a standout player but the Bengals opted to pay him in the top half of the NFL.

#LCo5KSC: Women of ESPN salute Linda Cohn on historic achievement
Linda Cohn will anchor her 5,000th SportsCenter on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 8 a.m. ET on ESPN. No other person has anchored more SportsCenters in ESPN’s 36-year history. Front Row’s tribute week to Cohn continues today with a salute from some of her female colleagues at ESPN, including fellow SportsCenter anchors and peers. There’s more Cohn content on Front Row to come, including another wide-ranging video tribute on Friday.

10 Players Who Could Surprise in NFL Free Agency
It’s chic to denounce free agency and proselytize that the right way to build a team is through the draft. While valid on the surface, it’s not the absolute truth people make it out to be. Look at the last three Super Bowl champions. None of them would be wearing rings if not for their big free-agent acquisitions. For the Broncos, it was Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. For the Patriots, Darrelle Revis. The Seahawks, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

Police: Montee Ball Threw His Girlfriend Into A Table
NFL free-agent running back Montee Ball threw his girlfriend into a table in their hotel room before he was arrested and charged with battery, according to a Madison (Wisc.) PD report.

Troy Polamalu has avoided Steelers since being pushed into retirement
Troy Polamalu apparently wasn't exactly happy when he retired before the 2015 NFL season. Let's just say that his decision wasn't, in fact, completely his decision. Polamalu signed a three-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers before the 2014 season, however by season's end, the Steelers decided they didn't want his salary on the books any longer. So, they reportedly told Troy that if he didn't retire, they would be forced to release him.

Jay Glazer has YUGE revelation about Mike Francesa
Howard Stern may be the King of All Media, but according to Jay Glazer, Mike Francesa is the King of all ... well, let’s just let Jay tell you. Glazer, the FOX Sports NFL reporter, was once an intern at FAN and offered some YUGE details about the Sport Pope’s "mini" Pope during a CBS Sports radio interview on Thursday, in a story first reported by Deadspin.

Why Terrell Owens Had a Greater NFL Career Than Randy Moss
T.O. and Randy Moss had one of the more notable wide receiver rivalries in NFL history. They were both perennial Pro Bowl selections who put up big numbers and defined what it meant to be a playmaking, impact player in the 2000s. But who was better?

Jim Brown Had More Than a Few Issues Off the Field With Both Women and Men
Jim Brown, one of the greatest football players of all-time, was born on this date in 1936. Brown rushed for 12,312 yards and 106 touchdowns in 9 seasons. Brown was a member of the 1964 Browns team that won Cleveland’s last championship. These days, Brown is a member of the Browns organization as a "special adviser." He was hired in 2013 and new head coach Hue Jackson recently told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that he would rely on Brown for insight. Here’s what he had to say about Brown.

Top 2016 Free Agents: Who Are You Really Getting?
In the crapshoot that is NFL free agency, you never know if your guy will be a DeMarcus Ware or a Nnamdi Asomugha. A look at some best- and worse-case scenarios for top players in the ’16 pool.

NBA All-Star Game can’t top the Pro Bowl in TV ratings
The Pro Bowl, everyone agrees, stinks. So why does the NFL keep it around? Because millions of people watch it, because it’s football, and because it’s on TV. That point was hammered home once again this week when the NBA All-Star Game delivered 7.6 million viewers. That number, which is the combined number of viewers on both TNT and TBS, was touted as a big success for the NBA and an increase over last year. But it’s still short of the Pro Bowl, which saw a huge ratings decrease this year — down to 8 million viewers.