As the Bengals’ roster undergoes an age alteration they are canvassing leaders, which is why wide receiver Brandon LaFell re-signing for two years is a locker-room coup. LaFell, 30, heading into his eighth season, left a huge mark on Paul Brown Stadium last year when he surfaced in Cincinnati after the Patriots released him. Not only did he have a near-career year with 63 catches for 13.5 yards per, but he soldiered on in the absence of A.J. Green while playing nicked and rallying the wide receivers down the stretch.
With nose tackle Domata Peko signing for nearly $4 million per year in Denver and running back Rex Burkhead seemingly on the verge of going elsewhere, the Bengals are entertaining the idea of courting unrestricted free agents. One of them is old friend Andre Smith, who is just what the doctor ordered on a re-shuffled offensive line. Smith, 30, the club’s first-round pick from 2009 who anchored right tackle for six post-season runs, visits Tuesday and would be a very nice veteran get as they wait and see if 2015 second-round pick Jake Fisher is ready for the job.
They call him “The Big Uso,” which is Samoan for “brother,” and that exactly describes nose tackle Domata Peko’s big brother legacy in the middle of a defense that became the foundation of the most successful run in Bengals’ history.
Free-agent linebacker Keenan Robinson will visit the Cincinnati Bengals, a source told ESPN's Josina Anderson. The Bengals also hosted former defensive end Connor Barwin this week. Robinson, 27, is coming off a one-year stint with the Giants, where he was used as their primary nickel linebacker. He played 70 percent of their defensive snaps, the second most on the team.
Andre Smith may return to the team that drafted him. Smith, an offensive tackle selected by the Bengals with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, is visiting Cincinnati, according to multiple reports.
The Cincinnati Bengals have lost another free agent with defensive end Margus Hunt signing a two-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts, according to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The Bengals announced a pair of roster moves on Monday, including the previously reported return of tackle Eric Winston. The other move announced on Monday was the departure of wide receiver James Wright. The 2014 seventh-round pick has been placed on waivers.
Of course, the Bengals have lost a ton of key starters on the offensive line but there may be some ways to patch it up. The line probably won’t be as good as it was 2 years ago, but I think it has the potential to be decent. If they can provide Andy with a running game, that opens up the offense more and hopefully helps avoid a losing season.
AFC North Bytes
About five days into free agency, here’s the list of the Ravens’ top five needs
Count former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden among those who think quarterback Mitchell Trubisky can turn around the Cleveland Browns. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Gruden spent time with the North Carolina product Monday as part of his QB Camp segment that airs on ESPN. "The one thing the Cleveland Browns have not been able to solve is the quarterback and I think he could handle it," Gruden said in an ESPN interview, via Cabot.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury and is expected to have a recovery timeline of six weeks. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported news of the procedure Monday, which fixed a problem that surfaced during the Steelers' AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots. Bell delayed the procedure, and Rapoport indicated last month it was unlikely he needed surgery.
Superstar linebacker DeMarcus Ware announced his retirement on Twitter Monday afternoon after a lengthy NFL career. Ware was a 9-time Pro Bowler, 4-time first-team All-Pro, and a Super Bowl champion with the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Tight end Julius Thomas is now a member of the Dolphins and he’s excited about the chance to play for Adam Gase again. The Dolphins head coach was the Broncos offensive coordinator during Thomas’ best NFL seasons and Thomas said on Monday that “I really believe in his philosophy” when it comes to both on- and off-field matters.
The frenzy may have slowed nearly a week into the NFL's free agency period, but there are still plenty of big-name players looking for a new team. NFL teams continue to host free agents, with some top targets taking multiple meetings at this point in the process. Some position groups have been exhausted faster than others; currently, there is a plethora of defensive tackles and running backs still available.
Some of the best free agency moves are the ones that didn't happen, and often by accident. Just ask Denver Broncos general manager John Elway about his thankfully failed attempt to keep quarterback Brock Osweiler. Though there are key signings that can push a team over the top or add a critical piece, in general the best blueprints for roster building are focused on the draft. That's not a new or foreign concept, or at least it shouldn't be in a sport where young, cheap and talented is the holy trifecta of championship aspirations.