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Bengals 2018 free agents: Who should stay and who will go?

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The Bengals have a few tough decisions to make when it comes to which players will be retained heading into the 2018 season.

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals are heading into a make or break offseason following extending the contract of head coach Marvin Lewis. The same old uneventful offseason won’t be enough this year, but before we get there, the team has some decisions to make with their own free agents.

Here’s a look at the Bengals’ 2018 free agents.

Bengals free agents 2018

Player Position Age 2017 Team 2018 Team 2018 Contract
Player Position Age 2017 Team 2018 Team 2018 Contract
Kevin Minter ILB 27 Bengals
Andre Smith G 30 Bengals Cardinals 2 years, $8 million with an additional $2.2 million in incentives
Kevin Huber P 32 Bengals Bengals 3-years, $7.95 million with incentives up to $8.75 million
Tyler Eifert TE 27 Bengals Bengals 1-year, up to $8 million
Cedric Peerman RB 31 Bengals
Eric Winston RT 34 Bengals
Pat Sims DT 32 Bengals
Jeremy Hill RB 25 Bengals Patriots 1-year, $1.5 million with only $150,000 guaranteed
Russell Bodine C 25 Bengals Bills 2-years, $10 million
Chris Smith DE 26 Bengals Browns 3 years, $12,000,000
AJ McCarron QB 27 Bengals Bills 2-years, $10 million with an additional $6.5 million in incentives
Adam Jones CB 34 Bengals

This isn’t exactly a list of extremely talented players, but there are still guys here who need to be on the Bengals’ roster next season. However, there are also plenty of guys the Bengals should just let walk and allow to find a new home in 2018.

Lets play a game called re-sign, let walk or to be determined.

Re-sign

Kevin Huber (Punter): Probably the easiest name to say the team should re-sign is their punter. Huber isn’t the greatest punter in the NFL, but he is one of the better ones. The team could easily do worse before they could do better. It just makes sense to keep Huber on the roster, especially with Darrin Simmons back as special teams coordinator.

Chris Smith (Defensive end): Smith didn’t play a whole lot this season, but when he did, he did his job well. He finished the season with three sacks and a forced fumble in his limited role. With Michael Johnson nearing the end of his career, it would be nice to keep Smith in order to keep the pass rush as a strength for this Bengals team. Plus you can never have too many pass rushers to rotate into the lineup. Figuring the draft will be offensive heavy, that’s only more reason to re-sign Smith.

Andre Smith (Offensive lineman): Smith did a great job filling in for an offensive line that struggled last season. He had some really good games and some blah games. Still this is more of a depth move. Ideally, the team would also address the tackle position in the draft or free agency, and Smith would be a bench player in 2018. Having that extra tackle who can come in and play solid is a great luxury to have and the Bengals could do worse than Smith as a backup.

Let walk

Russell Bodine (Center): It is time for both sides to walk away. Bodine has constantly been a weak link in the offensive line since being inserted into the starting lineup. He finished off 2017 by sprinkling in a few performances that weren’t bad, but the team now has Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond to insert into the middle of that offensive line. Westerman has spent time as a center in his football days, so moving him to the middle of the offensive line could be a nice boost if the way he played at the end of 2017 is any indication. The Bengals could also draft a center, which is potentially the only way they’ll really let Bodine walk.

Cedric Peerman (Running back): This one is sad, but Peerman’s career with the Bengals is probably over. The team put him on Injured Reserve prior to the start of this season, and they have had a full season to adjust to his absence on special teams. Peerman has been with the Bengals since 2010, and the team thought highly enough of him to bring him back from Injured Reserve in 2016 over William Jackson. Still it seems like it is time to move on as he serves no offensive purpose and has been replaced on special teams by younger players.

Jeremy Hill (Running back): This is probably the most obvious one. When the Bengals drafted Joe Mixon in the second round it pretty much signaled the beginning of the end for Hill as a Bengals running back.

We will never forget Hill’s monster rookie campaign when he rushed for over 1,000 yards. Unfortunately, what will be more memorable is his unexplainable drop off following that season. After averaging 5.1 yards per carry his rookie year, he never averaged more than four yards a career in the following three seasons. Hill’s season ended with him opting for season-ending surgery.

Hill could find a team that revives his career, but it won’t be in Cincinnati.

Kevin Minter (Linebacker): I think both sides can agree this year didn’t go as planned for Minter. The former Cardinals linebacker bet on himself taking a one-year deal with the Bengals to prove his value before hitting free agency again in 2018. It didn’t work out that way at all. Minter was average at best, and once Vontaze Burfict returned from his suspension, Minter hardly played outside of defensive sets that didn’t involve three linebackers being on the field. Minter’s season also ended with an injury, and the Bengals would be better off trying to find a new replacement in the draft for the middle of their defense.

Eric Winston (Offensive tackle): Winston is one call a way from being on the roster at any moment, but there are better options at tackle that can be added. Plus, Winston will be turning 35 next season.

Pat Sims (Defensive tackle): Between Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow and Josh Topou there isn’t much room for Sims on this defensive line. Not to mention, the Bengals started kicking Johnson inside on pass rushing situations, so there is less of a need to carry that many defensive tackles. After a lengthy career in Cincinnati, Sims should be moving on in 2018.

To be determined

Tyler Eifert (Tight end): If Eifert is willing to take a one-year deal to prove he can stay healthy, or an incentive riddled long-term deal that requires him to play to get paid, then he is obviously a player you want on this team. However, you can’t give Eifert a guaranteed long-term deal after only playing 39 games in the past five seasons. Marvin Lewis says the Bengals want to bring the tight end back, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy before anyone should give him the contract his talent deserves. It’s also possible the Bengals throw a franchise tag on him.

AJ McCarron (Quarterback): McCarron has a complicated situation going on. He is currently fighting his restricted free agency saying he should be an unrestricted free agent. Depending on how that gets ruled (which McCarron says will be determined in February) will determine what the Bengals do with him.

If he is a restricted free agent they should give him either a second or first round tender. At best someone signs him, and the Bengals are rewarded with great compensation. At worst the team gets a valuable backup quarterback for one more season.

If he is determined to be an unrestricted free agent, the Bengals have to let him walk. The market will probably be too expensive to keep him as a backup, plus he wants to be a starter somewhere. The Bengals won’t offer him that opportunity.