Since the free agency window opened, the Bengals have lost Andrew Whitworth to the Los Angeles Rams, Kevin Zeitler to the Cleveland Browns, Rex Burkhead to the New England Patriots, Domata Peko to the Denver Broncos, Karlos Dansby to the Arizona Cardinals and Margus Hunt to the Indianapolis Colts. The team re-signed Dre Kirkpatrick, Eric Winston and Brandon LaFell in addition to bringing in Kevin Minter from the Cardinals and Andre Smith following a year away with the Minnesota Vikings.
At this point, it would stand to reason that the majority of the notable deals around the league are out of the way. All of the remaining free agents who have yet to sign with a team are likely going to have to either settle for more team-friendly contracts or not play at all in 2017. The Bengals only have three free agents left from their 2016 roster who have yet to be signed. Are those three players worth considering for a return to the team?
UPDATE: The Bengals have re-signed Peerman since the time this article was published.
In most cases, once a running back turns 30, their value to NFL teams drops off dramatically. Peerman hit that dreaded age last October and will be 31 for most of the 2017 season. Given his relegation to the third and even fourth string role for much of his career, it makes sense that the Bengals aren’t particularly worried about re-signing him.
However, after losing Burkhead to the Patriots, the Bengals could use a backup of Peerman’s experience in the backfield and even more so on special teams. He wouldn’t be likely to see much action on offense if he were to be re-signed, but he is a solid team leader and a great influence in the locker room who would probably sign for a minimal deal. In addition to his influence in the locker room, his role as the special teams captain is worth much more than his role as a backup running back. Particularly with Burkhead gone (the Bengals’ 2016 special teams tackle leader), bringing Peerman back makes a lot of sense.
According to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson, the Bengals are "probably" going to re-sign Peerman.
Throughout the entire free agency process, it has never been surprising that the Bengals have essentially ignored Brown’s free agent status. The former Ravens fifth round pick spent three and a half forgettable years with the team before spending the second half of 2014 with the Giants, also in forgettable fashion.
Brown was out of football in 2015 and made a return with the Bengals in 2016, but struggled to find any playing time before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury in Week 12. In addition to starting cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, the Bengals have plenty of young developmental talent in Darqueze Dennard, KeiVarae Russell, and Josh Shaw. The team also signed Bene Benwikere this offseason, too.
In theory, the Bengals could re-sign Brown for the offseason to shore up the depth. But, they might as well draft someone entirely new with one the 11 picks the team has in 2017.
Since first joining the Bengals in 2012, Gilberry has proven to be one of the Bengals’ best backup players. He has regularly been asked to fill in or rotate at defensive end and usually puts together solid performances in the process. Over five seasons with the Bengals, he has played in 67 games, started 19, and recorded 134 tackles, 20 sacks, six pass deflections, and three fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown).
It should go without saying that Gilberry has been integral to the success of the defensive line, despite never being considered part of the starting lineup. Without him, the Bengals’ defensive line would have been much less deep over the years as well as much less effective. For that reason, it is extremely difficult to understand why the Bengals didn’t make the effort to re-sign him last offseason and have been continuing to drag their feet this offseason.
Granted, Gilberry spent part of 2016 in Detroit and looked lost and ineffective in the process. But, when he came back to the team, he and the whole defensive line looked much better upon his returned. During his five games played with the Bengals in 2017, Gilberry wracked up 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and helped the defensive line finish the year on a better foot than it started. It is understandable that the Bengals want to move forward by shedding loose ends on the defensive line, getting younger and building the position in the draft, but Gilberry could be the wrong player to shed. The Bengals would be making a mistake by not bringing him back in 2017, just as they learned in 2016.