The Bengals have lost a few key pieces this offseason. Andrew Whitworth moved on to the Los Angeles Rams, while Domata Peko left for the Denver Broncos, Kevin Zeitler for the Cleveland Browns, and Rex Burkhead for the New England Patriots. All but Burkhead were key pieces to the starting lineup, but the running back still played an important role on the team that will now need replacing.
The roster losses will surely hurt, but the Bengals and their fans have to move on without those players. With about $20 million in cap space remaining for 2017, there are still 2017 free agents to consider like Cedric Peerman, Wallace Gilberry, and Chykie Brown. And, the Bengals need to save money for their rookie class, too. With that said, the team is also going to want to figure out what they are going to do with their 2018 free agents sooner, rather than later.
Burfict might well be the most successful undrafted free agent in Bengals history. Unfortunately, the reason he didn’t get drafted (his hot-headed behavior) turned out to be the thing that has plagued him most in his NFL career. Still, through five seasons, he has been an absolute monster, putting up 508 tackles, seven sacks, five interceptions, five fumble recoveries, one defensive touchdown, 25 pass deflections, and a Pro Bowl berth in 2013. That all comes despite playing only 58 games in those five seasons. Imagine where those numbers would have been if he stayed healthy and wasn’t suspended for part of 2016. He is arguably the player on the Bengals’ roster with the most potential. So, the team will want to lock him up before his market value has the potential to skyrocket at the end of the 2017 season. There’s also reason to wait out the 2017 season to see if Burfict truly has changed and is playing safer football. But, financially, it’s likely best for the Bengals to make a move on re-signing Burfict before the 2018 offseason.
Were it not for injuries, Tyler Eifert might be the best tight end in the NFL today. There have been times that he looked the part, but having missed 27 regular season games in four years has set him back. Still, he is an incredibly talented weapon who almost always produces at a high level when given the opportunity. If the Bengals wait until next offseason to re-sign him, he might test the free-agent market and would probably find another team willing to pay top dollar for a talented, young, tight end. Though, the Bengals do have the upperhand as the team could franchise tag him in 2018, and it wouldn’t be too much to handle as Eifert is a top five tight end, as the tag would pay him. This year’s tight end franchise tag is about $9.8 million.
The Bengals have employed Huber for his punting services since selecting him with the 142nd overall pick in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Since then, he has been one of the most consistently impressive members of the team, holding multiple franchise punting records and even making it to the Pro Bowl in 2014. 2016 wasn’t his best season, but, he also hasn’t given the Bengals a reason to move on from him. Punters don’t typically get massive deals, so re-signing Huber isn’t a huge priority, but it something the Bengals could work on this offseason.
Bengals 2018 free agents