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Bengals plan to be cheap with internal free agents, per report

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Some things never change. Let’s hope this isn’t real.

Cincinnati Bengals Rookie Camp Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Bengals rarely commit big money to free agents in one offseason, even when it involves their own players.

Whenever the Bengals have had multiple important free agents in one offseason, the team typically ends up re-signing one, maybe two of them, but that’s about it. That was the case last year when Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Adam Jones and George Iloka all hit free agency, but Jones and Iloka ended up being the only two who were re-signed.

This year, the big three free agents are Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler and Dre Kirkpatrick. It won’t be easy getting any of those three re-signed, but it sounds like Cincinnati isn’t committing much of their resources to get them re-signed either.

According to Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson, Cincinnati may be allocating as little as $15 million for this season to get those three guys re-signed along with Rex Burkhead.

The Bengals figure to have about $15 million to spend that’s going to be focused on bringing back their own guys with Whitworth, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, right guard Kevin Zeitler, and running back Rex Burkhead heading the list.

Let’s be frank; if this is true, that’s an absurd number for the Bengals to limit themselves to in order to get their key free agents re-signed, something they’ve prided themselves on while opting not to pursue outside free agents for most of Mike Brown’s tenure as Bengals owner.

If the Bengals really only plan to spend $15 million on players as important as Zeitler, Whitworth and Kirkpatrick, maybe Bengals fans really are suckers for thinking this team cares about winning. After all, between the 2017 cap hits and signing bonuses those players will get, it’s possible Zeitler and Kirkpatrick both get $15 million this year, and that’s before Whitworth signs a deal that likely pays him about $10 million this year.

If $15 million is really the extent of the money available this year for free agents, I’d guess the team is keeping Adam Jones, because only Mike Brown would opt to keep a guy like Jones and let a young talent like Kirkpatrick leave.

‘If’ this is how it all plays out this offseason, 0-7 in the playoffs suddenly feels like deserved karma for this franchise instead of the burden it’s made out to be. The real burden is on fans who expect better and are constantly given less.

The Bengals have nearly $43 million of cap space this season, so limiting the amount of money spent on internal free agents to $15 million is quite frankly ridiculous. The Bengals can also add more cap space by cutting players like Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson, Pat Sims and other underperforming players. If the team cares about improving and winning, $15 million simply can’t be the total money allocated for 2017 for players set to hit free agency.

Let’s hope this ‘if’ is merely speculation from Hobson and not a reality that’s about to painfully set in during the next few weeks.

Here’s a list of the Bengals players set to hit free agency on March 9.

Bengals 2017 free agents

Player Pos. 2016 Team Type Current APY Guarantees Status
Player Pos. 2016 Team Type Current APY Guarantees Status
Andrew Whitworth LT Bengals UFA $9,000,000 $2,000,000
Domata Peko 4-3 DT Bengals UFA $4,500,000 $4,400,000
Brandon LaFell WR Bengals UFA $2,500,000 $1,000,000
Dre Kirkpatrick CB Bengals UFA $2,155,749 $7,840,065
Karlos Dansby 4-3 OLB Bengals UFA $2,000,000 $700,000
Kevin Zeitler RG Bengals UFA $1,886,050 $6,125,446
Eric Winston RT Bengals UFA $1,090,000 $80,000
Cedric Peerman RB Bengals UFA $1,065,000 $250,000
Margus Hunt 4-3 DE Bengals UFA $917,775 $1,049,892
Wallace Gilberry 4-3 DE Bengals UFA $885,000 $0
Brandon Thompson 4-3 DT Bengals UFA $840,000 $50,000
Chykie Brown CB Bengals UFA $760,000 $0
Randy Bullock K Bengals UFA $675,000 $0 Re-Signed
T.J. Johnson C Bengals RFA $600,000 $0
Rex Burkhead RB Bengals UFA $565,550 $102,200