With the legal tampering period of NFL free agency underway, the Bengals now have the opportunity to talk with outside free agents' agents, to potentially fill various holes on their roster. Those holes could either exist as a result of a player like Mohamed Sanu leaving for a more lucrative opportunity elsewhere, or could have already existed due to a lack of depth at a position. Even though the Bengals typically don't make big splashes in free agency, here's a list of players the Bengals should consider to help fill these holes.
One of the biggest criticisms of Benjamin is his size. At 5'10, 175 pounds, he isn't going to be bringing the same kind of element to the game that A.J. Green does. Still, as a slot receiver and potential replacement for Mohamed Sanu, the questions about his size could lead to a reasonable price for his services. Spotrac estimates his contract value at $4.3 million. They make essentially the same estimation for Mohamed Sanu.
One of the biggest obstacles for the Bengals re-signing Sanu seems to be Sanu's interest in getting more balls thrown his way and not having to compete with the likes of A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill, and Giovani Bernard for targets. Benjamin had a career year in 2015, but that still only adds up to 68 targets, 966 yards, and five touchdowns. He might be willing to play a similar role at his estimated market value for a more successful team. This would be really helpful if the Bengals were to lose both Sanu and Marvin Jones. It adds that Benjamin had some great returns on special teams in 2015.
If the Bengals were to lose safety George Iloka, it might make sense to find a proven, veteran strong safety to come in and hold down the fort while Shawn Williams or a safety that the team picks up in the draft develops into a starter. Ihedigbo is already a career journeyman who has bounced around from the Jets to the Patriots, Ravens, and Lions. Bengals fans might remember Ihedigbo as the Ravens' former strong safety who recorded his first career interception, and then another interception on Andy Dalton in Week 10 of the 2013 season.
He's not the kind of player who is going to make a ton of eye-popping plays or be a Pro Bowl caliber player, but he would certainly be a good transitional player with experience who could help the young guys buy time and experience going forward. He's also probably not going to be able to earn much more than $1.5 million on the open market.
The Bengals seem to like signing veteran linebackers to help bolster the position. Freeman isn't terribly old, but he will be 30 in May and has plenty of starting experience with the Colts. If the Bengals lose Vincent Rey or Emmanuel Lamur, Freeman could be a good coverage inside linebacker to take some of the pressure off of Rey Maualuga. He also will likely be pursued by a few teams, but only enough to put his cap hit a little over $2 million.
If the Bengals are really looking to make a splash by bringing in a high profile, quality free agent, they might want to consider Bruce Irvin. He won't be cheap. His market value is estimated at $8.7 million by Spotrac. That said, he could be exactly the kind of tough, veteran presence that this team needs to really get the defense going.
The biggest problem? He might not be the best influence on the team. If you'll recall, Irvin was ejected from Super Bowl XLIX for starting a fight with Rob Gronkowski. Still, if the Bengals are looking to really make a splash in free agency, this might be the best option for them to go with. They probably aren't going to do that, because they never do, but it wouldn't be a bad fit.
Regardless, Irvin is already drawing interest from many teams.
Without a doubt, the best center available in free agency this year is Alex Mack. That said, it will probably cost far too much for the Bengals to be able to sign him and also maintain a competitive depth chart at other positions. Plus, they've given no indications they want to move on from Russell Bodine.
Wisniewski isn't quite on Mack's level, but he's still probably the second best center available in free agency this year. He's a natural guard who was named to to PFF's all rookie team in 2011, playing well enough to earn a one year, $2.5 million contract in the 2015 offseason. Wisniewski is also only 26-years-old, so if the Bengals are considering a move from Bodine's errant snaps and poor technique, they can find a serviceable, experienced replacement in Wisniewski without adding much age to the position.