On March 7, NFL teams can begin negotiating with players who will become free agents at the start of the new league year on March 9. At that time, the agents of many players on the Bengals' 2016 roster who are set to hit the open market, will begin to hear from other teams around the league. And once the 9th rolls around two days later, players around the NFL will quickly find new teams and homes.
The Bengals have 14 unrestricted free agents and some of the big names include Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, Dre Kirkpatrick, Brandon LaFell and Rex Burkhead. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com ranked the top 25 free agents for 2017 and Zeitler is high on the list, coming in at No. 12.
Zeitler’s value in free agency will be extremely high and that’s also evidenced by him being the top guard among the top 25 free agents. There’s only one other guard on the list, T.J. Lang, who ranks 20th on the list.
In 2016, Zeitler and Lang were among the top 10 highest paid guards, though Lang just finished off his second NFL contract while Zeitler was playing on his fifth year option.
Top 10 guards with highest cap hit in 2016 (via Spotrac):
As the player who will likely be the most sought out by other NFL teams, it could be tough for the Bengals to re-sign Zeitler, but they should make it a priority to do so. The Bengals typically re-sign their own players instead of opting for big-name signings from outside free agents. So if Cincinnati is going to make a splash in free agency, it would come by re-signing Zeitler.
Here’s Rosenthal’s list of the rest of the top 25 free agents. Do any of the other players interest you?
Top 25 2017 Unrestricted Free Agents
1) Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers, running back
2) Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs safety
3) Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins quarterback
4) Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle
5) Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker
6) Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears wide receiver
7) Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker
8) Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals defensive end
9) Brandon Williams, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle
10) Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants defensive end
11) Jamie Collins, Cleveland Browns outside linebacker
12) Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals guard
13) Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills cornerback
14) A.J. Bouye, Houston Texans cornerback
15) Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots linebacker
16) Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle
17) Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots tight end
18) DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins receiver
19) Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns receiver
20) T.J. Lang, Green Bay Packers guard
21) Nick Perry, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker
22) Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles Rams cornerback
23) Tony Jefferson, Arizona Cardinals safety
24) Ricky Wagner, Baltimore Ravens tackle
25) Barry Church, Dallas Cowboys safety