The Cincinnati Bengals have had a busier than usual offseason, making plenty of moves that are both typical of the franchise and not-so-typical. For example, the Bengals seemed to not miss a beat from their traditional strategy of dealing with in-house free agents when they let 35-year old left tackle Andrew Whitworth move to the Los Angeles Rams, underperforming 32-year old defensive tackle Domata Peko move to the Denver Broncos, and 27-year old right guard Kevin Zeitler move to the Cleveland Browns. All of those moves were controversial among Bengals fans, but none were particularly out-of-character for the Bengals at those positions and/or considering levels of production and money involved.
However, the Bengals also made two very non-Bengals moves this offseason in signing 26-year old free agent middle linebacker Kevin Minter from the Arizona Cardinals and releasing 30-year old middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. The Bengals don’t typically pursue young, talented, outside free agents or cut long-time veteran starters, although it is generally agreed that the Bengals did the right thing in both cases.
We are now pushing a month into the open free agency period that started on March 9, which is typically the point in which the Bengals have started making moves for cheaper, older players who present quick fixes for certain holes on the team. There are still plenty of free agents left on the market, the following of whom would make the most sense for the Bengals to pursue:
RB Jamaal Charles
For the most part, the current free agent market for running backs is pretty slim. The only two particularly exciting prospects are former Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson and former Kansas City Chief Jamaal Charles. Even at 32, Peterson would immediately upgrade the Bengals’ ground attack. But, he is probably out of the Bengals’ price range, even though he has gone three weeks without signing with a team. He has made it clear he's not rushing to sign his next deal.
Charles is younger than Peterson, but he’s still 30, so the Bengals would likely be more open to signing him. At the moment, they seem to be contingent on moving forward with a backfield tandem of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Consider Charles’ spot on this list a bit of wishful thinking for Hill’s future (or lack thereof) with the team. The Bengals are also highly likely to draft a running back early in this year's draft.
WR Michael Floyd
The Bengals need a new veteran wide receiver like A.J. Green needs another arm. It could certainly help, but there is nothing wrong with his current number of arms and, in the long run, might actually cause a bit of a traffic jam. Still, the Bengals did release James Wright earlier this month, so there is an open spot on the Bengals’ roster. Chances are, that spot will be filled by Jake Kumerow, Alonzo Russell, Chris Brown, or a rookie receiver the team picka up in or after the draft. But, why not throw Floyd’s name in there?
Given his recent DUI arrest, he will not be allowed to leave the state of Arizona until June 17. By then, teams will likely be looking at him, but his market value will be minimal. Purely from a talent standpoint, it might not be a bad idea to give him a chance to compete for a spot on the roster. If he messes his opportunity up, the Bengals wouldn’t have had to invest much into him.
DE Mario Williams
One of the most hyped players at various times in his career, 32-year-old four time Pro Bowl defensive end, Mario Williams, fits exactly what the Bengals typically look for in free agency. That is because he will likely sign with a team for a lower price due to his age and recent performance. He had a down year with the Miami Dolphins in 2016, only recording 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 pass deflection. But, he could potentially fit in with the Bengals as a rotational defensive end.
The Bengals would probably have to release Michael Johnson, similarly to their recent release of Rey Maualuga, for this signing to actually work out. But, Williams has been a great player at times in his career and should have enough left in the tank to contribute with the Bengals on some level. Considering that Johnson’s release is highly unlikely, this signing is also unlikely.
DB Brandon Flowers
There was a time when Brandon Flowers was considered one of the best up-and-coming cornerbacks in the NFL. That culminated with his first Pro Bowl berth in his sixth season in the NFL, 2013. At that point, it seemed like he would stick around as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. Unfortunately, for financial reasons, the Chiefs cut Flowers before the 2014 season.
He signed with the Chargers the following year, playing very well in 2014. But, he had a down year in 2015 and only played in six games in 2016 before being placed on Injured Reserve in Week 10. At 31-years-old and coming off an injury plagued season, it is no wonder NFL teams have yet to make enough of an effort to sign him. At this point, his market value should be drastically reduced. He could be a cheap option for the Bengals to shore up their cornerback depth, or at least add competition to the pool to push guys like Darqueze Dennard, KeiVarae Russell, and Josh Shaw in camp.