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Bengals expect Andrew Whitworth to test free agency

The Bengals better be ready to increase their offer if the team intends to allow Whitworth to hit the free agent market and re-sign him after March 9.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is nearing and the only signing the Bengals have made to lock up a player from the 2016 roster is kicker Randy Bullock.

Andrew Whitworth, Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler, Rex Burkhead and Brandon LaFell are among the 2016 Bengals set to hit free agency on March 9 at 4:00 p.m. ET. That’s if the Bengals can’t re-sign any of those players before free agency begins.

The team is surely attempting to do that, but Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin mentioned on Wednesday that he anticipates Whitworth at least testing out the open market when free agency begins. The representatives of impending free agents are not allowed to speak with any team other than a player’s current team until March 7 at 4:00 p.m. ET and free agents cannot sign or officially agree to a deal with a new team until March 9 at 4:00 p.m. ET.

“I always anticipate people testing free agency when they get to this point,” Tobin said via the Dayton Daily News of Whitworth. “That’s human nature. I think a lot of times that kind of sets a little bit more definitive market. I’m a Whitworth guy. He makes everyone in the personnel world and the coaching world proud that they were associated with bringing him in. And he’s still up to it in our opinion.”

Whitworth mentioned last week that he would test the free agent market if the Bengals didn't step up their offer, but also said he hopes to re-sign in Cincinnati.

“The reality is it would be great for everyone if we continue in Cincinnati,” Whitworth said elaborating on his free agency wishes. “In 2017 I hope to have a chance to win and I hope it’s as a Cincinnati Bengal and if not I hope I’m where I want to be and we have a chance to win.”

The problem is, if Whitworth does in fact hit the open market, many teams will jump at him and offer large contracts his way. The Broncos and Giants are two teams rumored to be interested in his services.

Whitworth is actually attending the Combine this week in Indianapolis, where most of the Bengals’ top decision makers are as well. His agent is surely there, too, so maybe there will be some communication and work done this week to try and move forward with the Bengals re-signing Whitworth.

“The way I view Whit, he encompasses everything you want when you pull a guy off a draft board from a scouting perspective,” Tobin said. “When you pull the name off the draft board and turn the card in, you want him to be Andrew Whitworth 10 years from now. Same team, multiple contracts, starter, Pro Bowl player, leader of everybody. Would I be upset if Whit came back? Hell no.”

Everything Tobin said is completely true. Whitworth has been with the Bengals for 11 years now and will go down as one of the best Bengals players of all time. If he’s not in Bengals stripes in 2017 it would be a major loss for the team.