NFL Free Agency official starts off the new league year and 32 teams are getting set to enter the frenzy. The Cincinnati Bengals aren't usually active in March, but they might be forced to because of the amount of impending free agents on their 2015 roster.
Sports Illustrated recently released a list of the top-100 impending free agents, and 10 of the Bengals' 13 remaining unrestricted free agents made the list. That points to the strength of the roster the Bengals have built since 2011, and the demand for these players will be high.
Given the rumor mill that has been spinning in the weeks before free agency, it isn't surprising to hear former Bengals assistant coaches who have earned promotions elsewhere potentially liking some of these players, and SI has tapped into that sentiment. The highest-rated Bengals player on the list is safety George Iloka at No .9, with the lowest coming in at No. 99 in linebacker Emmanuel Lamur.
Interestingly enough, SI has only two of the 10 set to hit the market as best fits to return to the Bengals. Iloka is one, as is cornerback Adam Jones who came in at No. 37. "Jones ended the season on a down note thanks to his behavior against the Steelers in the Bengals’ wild-card loss, and it doesn't help that he’ll be 33 early this season," SI writes about Jones. "Still, he’s a very good inside/outside corner and is one of the game’s top punt returners."
Rumors are running rampant about new Dolphins defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph, new Browns head coach Hue Jackson and Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer potentially poaching a number of Bengals players they are familiar with because of their time in Cincinnati. Three of their top four free agents have been tabbed to Cleveland in the article, while two others were noted as best fits for the Dolphins.
Marvin Jones (No. 15), Andre Smith (No. 26), and Mohamed Sanu (No. 30) were all noted as best fits for the Browns. Though Cleveland has some talent at wide receiver, they have a number of questions at the position as well. Josh Gordon has yet to be reinstated to the league, and Travis Benjamin is set to hit free agency (No. 68 on the list). Jackson loves the skill sets of Jones and Sanu, so losing one or both to a division rival would be devastating.
Meanwhile, Vincent Rey (No. 75) and Wallace Gilberry (No. 81) were pegged as good fits with Joseph in Miami. Rey isn't an exceptional athlete, but he can play a number of linebacker spots, is a good locker room guy and has made a number of plays for the Bengals over the years. Gilberry is older, but could still be effective as a rotational pass-rusher. Many players who interacted with Joseph in Cincinnati on defense gushed about his coaching prowess and that might play into the Dolphins' corner in free agency.
The list also has Reggie Nelson (No. 32) as a good fit for the Raiders, Leon Hall (No. 51) to the Panthers and Lamur to the Saints. Oakland and New Orleans had particularly big struggles on defense last year.
A couple of other interesting side notes on the list, too include former Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham's best fit being to the Steelers. Greg Bedard also didn't peg any outside free agents to the Bengals as best fits on this list, fueling the notion that the Bengals will be mostly focusing inward during this free agency period.