Other than quarterback, all options will be open for the Cincinnati Bengals when they pick ninth in next month’s NFL Draft.
If Marvin Lewis went into his 15th annual NFL meeting looking to make 0.0 headlines, mission accomplished. Ironically, it was his lone joke during Tuesday’s 63-minute session that came the closest to getting a few clicks. Told the Bengals should ask Cleveland for the 12th pick in next month’s draft in exchange for backup quarterback AJ McCarron, Lewis instead offered, “How about No. 1 ?”
The Bengals lost more than 500 games of NFL experience in the past two weeks when they moved on from nose tackle Domata Peko (171), left tackle Andrew Whitworth (168), middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (114), and right guard Kevin Zeitler (72). But head coach Marvin Lewis, who has sat through 15 seasons of coaching changes in the AFC Coaches Media Breakfast, saw it like this
Now that the Cincinnati Bengals are three weeks into free agency, they have a more accurate picture of how the roster will look heading into the 2017 draft. We're taking a look at each position, how it changed in free agency and where it stands now.
Andrew Whitworth's leaving the Bengals for the Rams was one of the more surprising moves to occur early in free agency. Whitworth, 35, has been a staple at left tackle for Cincinnati and a longtime leader in the locker room. It seemed almost unfathomable that he would be allowed to walk away, considering how much the Bengals offensive line struggled in 2016. Whitworth's replacement, Cedric Ogbuehi, taken in the first round of the 2015 draft, struggled at right tackle, was benched and did not fare much better in one game at left tackle.
The Bengals seemed all set up front when they used first- and second-round picks on Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the 2015 draft. Ogbuehi now looks like a bust, and Fisher has failed to earn consistent playing time. C Russell Bodine is entering a contract year. As both LT Andrew Whitworth and RG Kevin Zeitler left in free agency, Cincinnati threatens to field one of the NFL’s worst 2017 lines.
AFC North Bytes
Whoever was in charge of designing the Browns’ uniforms might not have a job for long, because apparently the team already hates the new look. Less than two years after unveiling a completely new uniform, the Browns are already looking to start over.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh admits he ponders a reunion with free agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin every day. The organization's search for another reliable target for quarterback Joe Flacco is not dominating Harbaugh's thoughts, though, because there's much more to consider.
The Pittsburgh Steelers took another hit to their precarious salary cap position on Tuesday. Did the Steelers sign another free agent? No. The Steelers had to make the final installment from their borrowing $3 million against the salary cap in 2011 and another $1.5 million in 2012. This was done for teams to be able to retain high-priced veterans.
The combine is over, free agency has filled holes or created voids on depth charts and we are a month from the draft. It's time for a mock draft.
Every step of the draft process is an opportunity for lesser-known prospects to make a name for themselves. Without fail, a few take advantage. This year multiple prospects already established themselves after little fanfare during the regular season. Florida Atlantic's Trey Hendrickson dominated at the East-West Shrine Game. Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon stole the show at the Senior Bowl. Temple's Haason Reddick made his case at the NFL combine to be the first linebacker selected in April.
Free agency is a game of sorts, and the goal is clear on both sides. The players need to take advantage of what is often their only opportunity to truly cash in, and extract as much money as possible from the open market. The mission ahead for teams is more complex. Front offices pursue value, aiming to maximize all their financial resources. The aim is to squeeze every last bit of production out of each dollar. To do that, there's a constant chase after the free-agency steal.
Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is the most controversial player in this year’s draft, a first-round talent who was caught on tape hitting a woman in an incident every bit as ugly as the one that ended Ray Rice’s career.
With free agency mostly over, the next stop on the professional football calendar is in Philadelphia for the NFL draft on April 27. It's still possible we might see a trade or two in advance of the draft, but there's not the same sort of late-March chatter we heard last year, when the Titans and Browns dealt out of the first and second picks of the draft, respectively. Barring a major trade, we should have a solid sense of how much draft capital each team has to work with for the upcoming season.