On Wednesday, March 9th at 4:00 p.m. EST several important things will happen. A rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation will air on BBC America, the Hallmark Channel will counter with a rerun of Little House on the Prairie, and all NFL contracts which end after the 2015 NFL season will expire and free agency will officially begin.
Once this begins (free agency, not Star Trek) some of the more aggressive teams will begin signing the biggest names in free agency. Every year there is always "that team" who makes a big splash during the first week of free agency by spending like crazy, and placing all of their proverbial eggs into the free agency basket.
Despite there being no uber elite free agents this year, as we saw in 2015, with Ndamukong Suh, and DeMarco Murray coming off his league leading rushing year, there are still plenty of very desirable free agents set to be hotly pursued in the upcoming week.
This year the top free agents on the market include Malik Jackson, Oliver Vernon, Bruce Irvin, Jason Pierre-Paul, Derrick Johnson, Kelechi Osemele, Doug Martin, Matt Forte, Brock Osweiler, as well as several players from the Bengals’ 2015 roster.
Of course each free agent can only land at one of 32 possible destinations, meaning that some teams will miss out on these bigger named free agents. One such team likely to miss out on these players will be the Cincinnati Bengals, who probably won’t do much of anything on March 9th. The Bengals have built a reputation as a team who prefers to idly sit on the sidelines for a while before signing a handful of players over the next month. With five straight playoff appearances it’s hard to question how the Bengals run things, but it can be frustrating for Bengals’ fans watching the top free agents getting scooped up by the competition.
The Bengals will, as they do every year, add new blood to the roster and sign free agents who are new to the team. But, as they have done in the last four years, these new acquisitions are likely not going to be big name, buzzworthy free agents. And the signings probably won’t take place until the flurry of overpriced contracts signed on the first few days of free agency settles down.
Below are the free agents signed by the Bengals during the last four years. These are the signings which took place during the period from the start of free agency up until the draft. Also, these are not re-signed free agents, but players who did not play for the Cincinnati Bengals in the previous season. Players added via waivers are not listed (Dontay Moch in 2014 and John Skelton in 2013).
These lists are not very big, with only four or five new free agents added in the last three years. Also, these lists lack any big time additions that warrant headline coverage on any major sports outlet. The closest such thing to a big signing would be the addition of Michael Johnson from the Buccaneers in 2015. Johnson was far from an elite signing, but unlike the other 21 names listed above; Johnson was signed fairly early in the free agency period and was actually being actively sought out by other teams.
Currently the Bengals have 14 players from their 2015 roster set to become free agents on March 9th (it was 15, but Brandon Tate has already been re-signed). The list includes plenty of good starters and top backups. The biggest hits are in the defensive secondary, along with the linebacker and wide receiver spots: George Iloka, Reggie Nelson, Adam Jones, Leon Hall, Andre Smith, Marvin Jones, Vincent Rey, Emmanuel Lamur, Wallace Gilberry, Mohamed Sanu, Eric Winston, Brandon Thompson, Pat Sims and T.J. Johnson, who is an exclusive rights free agent.
With one third of their game day roster potentially departing, your have to figure the Bengals will try to replenish their ranks with at least a few free agent signings. So that brings us to our over/under. How many free agents, who were not on the Bengals’ roster in 2015, will the Bengals add between March 9th, and the start of the NFL draft on April 28th?
Over/Under: Will the Bengals sign more or less than six outside players between the start of free agency and the NFL draft.
Why the Bengals will add FIVE OR LESS players during this period:
In each of the last two years the Bengals have added exactly five players in outside free agency. Like the GEICO commercial says, if you’re the Cincinnati Bengals, "It’s what you do." The Bengals are a team that builds through the draft and keeps their own. Therefore, many of their free agents will likely be returning to Cincinnati. As a result, there just won’t be much of a need to add new faces to the roster. The Bengals want to win now, and these players want to win now. They will return and try to get it accomplished. Over the last three years the Bengals have added either four or five players. They will follow that trend and add five players. A Bengals tiger doesn’t change its stripes.
Why the Bengals will add EXACTLY SIX players during this period:
In an over/under, you are traditionally supposed to pick a number above or below. But some people really like the number six, and may grumble if that is not an option. So this choice is for those of you who fall into that category.
Why the Bengals will add SEVEN OR MORE players during this period:
In the last three years, the Bengals have not added more than five new players to their roster during this period between the start of free agency, and the beginning of the draft. But 2016 is different. They have one third of their game day roster set to hit free agency, and those potential mass defections have to be replenished somehow. The Bengals are likely to be without any compensatory picks for the first time since 2012, and enter the draft with only seven selections, which would be the fewest number of players they have added during the draft since they drafted seven players in the 2007 draft. With a lot of guys probably on the way out, and only a limited number of replacements to be added during the draft, that shortfall will have to be accounted for via free agency. They added seven new players in free agency back in 2012, and will add at least that many in 2016.
So how many new free agents do you expect the Bengals to add? Please vote, and share your reasons in the comments section below.