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Bengals Bytes (2/16): Hitting the market

Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft hands the Bengals an instant impact player. Browns fans need to come to terms with Josh Gordon not returning to the NFL. A couple offensive tackles will be entering free agency after their teams passed on their fifth year options.

NFL: New York Jets at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mel Kiper projects Reuben Foster to linebacker-needy Bengals

As the days creep toward free agency, and eventually the 2017 draft, there's one main question surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals. What position do they take in the draft? Judging by the latest mock drafts from ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay: It's all defense early.

Here are key dates this NFL offseason and what they mean for Bengals

The franchise tag is a one-year, guaranteed contract offer that prevents a player from hitting unrestricted free agency. The salary is based on the five-year average cap percentage for the tag at each position. A player given an "exclusive" tag, which is worth slightly more, cannot negotiate with other teams. A player given a "non-exclusive" tag can deal with outside teams, but if he's allowed to sign with a new team, his previous club is compensated with two first-round draft picks.

AFC North Bytes

Biggest Challenges Facing Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017 Offseason

The Pittsburgh Steelers closed out the 2016 season with an 11-5 record and made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game against eventual Super Bowl winners, the New England Patriots. But even if the Steelers had managed to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for yet another time, that wouldn't have indicated that this is a flawless team.

Cleveland Browns: Time to accept that Josh Gordon is not coming back

It is unknown who first said “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but it is a sentiment that many Cleveland Browns can relate to when it comes to wide receiver Josh Gordon. It doesn’t take much for Gordon to get fans swooning over the thought of him once again wearing the Orange and Brown, even a simple Tweet can do it

The Ravens May Look to Help Joe Flacco by Upgrading The Running Game this Offseason

Conor Orr of and James Palmer of NFL Network take a look at the Baltimore Ravens and how their offseason moves could be focused on solidifying their running game.

Random Bytes

Offensive and Defensive Targets for Every NFL Team in 2017 Free Agency

On March 9 at 4 p.m. ET, NFL teams will crawl out of their tents outside the giant imaginary free-agency department store. Think of the annual Black Friday scene—just with more money. They'll anxiously wait for the doors to open while huddled in shivering masses. When they do, some teams will be left trampled as the few stars available in free agency are snatched up by front offices rich with salary-cap space.

Vince Young wants to make football comeback, hires big name agent to help

Three years after announcing his retirement, it appears that Vince Young wants to return to football. Young is so serious about making a comeback that he officially hired an agent this week. Leigh Steinberg, who has represented the likes of Troy Aikman and other football players, announced on Wednesday that he’s now taking on Young as a client.

Ryan Clady's Contract Option Declined by Jets, Will Become Free Agent

The New York Jets notified representatives for left tackle Ryan Clady on Wednesday that they will decline his $10 million club option for 2017 and make him an unrestricted free agent, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo confirmed the news. In addition to creating $10 million in cap room, the Jets also avoided paying Clady a $1 million roster bonus, per's Rich Cimini.

Teams express concern about Scouting Combine exclusions

On the surface, valid P.R. reasons exist for shunning certain players with histories of certain types of criminal activity from the Scouting Combine. As a practical matter, however, telling players with a history of violent crime to not come to Indianapolis serves only to make the process more complicated and expensive, for everyone.

Jaguars won’t pick up option on Kelvin Beachum’s contract

The Jaguars won’t pick up the option on the contract of offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday. Just one year after signing a five-year deal with annual options attached, Beachum will be a free agent.