We knew the Cincinnati Bengals were planning to be cheap in free agency and on the first day of the new league year, we watched Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler leave to sign big-money deals with new teams.
Whitworth signed a three-year, $36 million with the Rams and Zeitler signed a five-year $60 million with the Browns. The two players the Bengals have re-signed so far are Brandon LaFell and Dre Kirkpatrick. LaFell is back on a two-year, $9 million deal (originally reported as $10 million). And, Kirkpatrick is returning on a deal that’s said to net him about $52.5 million.
Per Bengals.com, if the Bengals had been able to re-sign both Kirkpatrick and Whitworth, as the team was hoping, a player on the current roster for 2017 would have been cut. But, once Whitworth signed elsewhere, that plan was axed. And, with just LaFell and Kirkpatrick re-signed, the Bengals aren’t planning to add many more free agents.
The Bengals only have about $2-3 million for another deal to fit in under the $16-18 million they have budgeted to spend.
That could be running back Rex Burkhead or a linebacker or an offensive lineman out on the market. But anything beyond that and they’ll probably have to start cutting some players. And they won’t sign any unrestricted free agents to avoid harming their haul of compensatory draft picks for 2018. They believe they walked out of Thursday with a third-rounder for Zeitler and a fifth-rounder for Whitworth.
They don’t have any backup tackles so they figure to start looking at re-signing backup right tackle Eric Winston. Since they have 11 draft picks they’ll get at least one tackle and if they don’t they could look at the veteran market after the draft. Or they could trade back in the first round and get one, but they may decide that’s going on a treadmill because the guy replacing Whitworth, Cedric Ogbuehi, is also untried.
If the Bengals need to clear space to sign more players, we have plenty of advice for the team on how to do that. Cut Adam Jones, cut Michael Johnson, cut Rey Maualuga, maybe even cut Jeremy Hill if Burkhead is going to be re-signed. A minimal savings but worthwhile idea to consider is also cutting Pat Sims. The Bengals need to get younger and need to get better and cutting any of those players would be a move in the right direction toward doing those things.
The veteran minimum for a player with 10+ years of experience, which Winston has, is $1,000,000 for 2017. So, he will get at least that much and the Bengals are planning to re-sign him... So, that leaves $1-2 million, per Hobson’s claim of there being only $2-3 million remaining before signing him.
The Bengals definitely need to spend more than $1-2 million this offseason after re-signing Winston, so, maybe the team will actually be cutting some of its dead weight sooner than later.
Let’s just hope the Bengals don’t actually think they can just spend $3 million more this offseason, cut nobody, and head into the draft as is.
Oh, and of course the Bengals are already rejoicing regarding 2018 compensatory draft picks. And, don’t plan to sign any unrestricted free agents... Because, what screams Bengals more than letting your best players leave and being excited about undetermined draft picks that will come more than a year down the line?