Just about any fan of the Bengals knows how they operate when it comes to free agency.
While they’ll occasionally pursue some respectable players that are just hitting the market when free agency begins, the majority of outside players Cincinnati signs have been cut by their previous team in the same offseason.
That’s because players who are signed in the same offseason they were cut don’t count against future compensatory draft picks. That’s why the Bengals tend to sign guys like Chris Baker, who was cut by Washington this offseason before landing in Cincinnati.
So, with the start of free agency arriving this week, who is on the market that’s already been cut this offseason?
The most obvious is Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. He’s been a force in New York since coming into the league as a first-round pick from Temple in 2011. He’s played multiple spots in different schemes along the way, including defensive tackle and defensive end.
In 105 career games, Wilkerson has racked up 44.5 sacks, including 28.5 in 45 games from 2013-15. He’d probably rotate between end and tackle in Cincinnati, though with the signing of Chris Baker, the Bengals may not give much thought to signing another defensive lineman.
A cheaper option would be Bears defensive end Willie Young. He’s spent most of his career at defensive end, but recently, he’s been an outside linebacker in Chicago’s 3-4 defense. After recording 24 sacks from 2014-16, Young had just two sacks in four games with the Bears in 2017.
That led to the 32-year-old being cut this offseason, so the Bengals could probably get him very cheap. They could use another pass-rusher if Chris Smith leaves in free agency and Michael Johnson continuing to wear down.
If the Bengals want to find a replacement for Tyler Eifert at tight end, Martellus Bennett is the best player on the market. An injury-riddled 2017 season led to Bennett being cut by the Packers, then signed by the Patriots only to be cut this offseason.
At age 31, Bennett is going to come cheap if he signs with another team. His last full season came in 2016 when he caught 55 passes for 701 yards and seven scores for the Super Bowl-champion Patriots.
The Bengals have to find a veteran linebacker in free agency this year, and Jerrell Freeman is a talented player who will come cheap. He’s been a solid starter in his seven-year career, recording 95-plus tackles in each of his first five seasons between the Colts and Bears.
However, a 10-game PED suspension led to Freeman appearing in just one game in 2017. He may be the best bargain free agent this offseason, and frankly, this is someone who the Bengals should give strong consideration to.
Here’s a look at the 10 most notable cut players that the Bengals should at least consider this offseason: