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Bengals willing to spend in NFL free agency after recent departures

Because the Bengals have already lost so many players, they’re more willing now to pursue outside free agents.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing a host of players this offseason, the Bengals are still being patient in pursuing outside free agents.

Some would call it cheap, but whatever it is, the plan for Cincinnati right now is to not offer any big contracts to unrestricted free agents this offseason. That’s because signing such players would affect the compensatory draft pick formula, which currently projects to net Cincinnati a third-round pick for losing Kevin Zeitler, as well as a fifth-round pick for losing Andrew Whitworth.

That’s why we shouldn’t expect the Bengals to sign many unrestricted free agents for the time being. However, the team is now planning to at least consider signing outside guys thanks to Margus Hunt, Domata Peko, Karlos Dansby and possibly Rex Burkhead joining other teams, as’s Geoff Hobson writes.

The Bengals want to make sure they get a third-round compensatory pick for Kevin Zeitler’s deal in Cleveland and a compensatory fifth for Andrew Whitworth’s deal in Los Angeles. Now with Peko, Burkhead, and Karlos Dansby already signing or about to sign deals worthy of picks, the Bengals have some room to maneuver on the unrestricted market.

To recap, Dansby signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cardinals; Peko signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Broncos; Hunt signed a two-year deal with the Colts, though terms of the deal have not been disclosed yet, but it will at least be around $700,000 based on the minimum for players with 4-6 years of experience; Burkhead has yet to sign a deal with anyone.

So if the Bengals are willing to just take the picks they get for Whitworth and Zeitler, and not seek out further compensatory picks, that means the team could spend somewhere around $6-8 million on outside free agents, in accordance with the deals of the additional players the Bengals lost. That’s more than enough to sign Keenan Robinson and/or Andre Smith, both of whom have visited the Bengals.

They could sign one of them and still get Connor Barwin, who was cut this offseason and won’t count against compensatory formula. Barwin also visited the Bengals.

While you’d like to see the Bengals at least make an effort to get bigger free agents, at least they’re considering some of the low-to-mid tier guys now. It’s baby steps, and as Bengals fans, maybe we can appreciate that.

After all, it was just last week that the team was saying it would only spend another $2-3 million in free agency. That still could remain true, but it sounds like the intention is to sign a few additional players to make up for the free agent losses.