It’s free agency season in the NFL and unlike the last two years when the Bengals had a long list of important free agents, the list of free agents in Cincinnati this year features 11 players, many of whom won’t be returning to the team.
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|
|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|
|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|
With free agency kicking off with the legal tampering period on Monday and really getting underway on Wednesday, March 14 at 4:00 p.m. ET, here’s a list of the players the Bengals should be looking to re-sign and those they can let walk into the free agent bloodbath.
Tyler Eifert (Tight end): Eifert is sure to receive offers from numerous teams, but it would be great if the Bengals could work out a deal that makes sense for both Eifert and the team.
What does that mean? I’m envisioning a deal similar to the one the Bengals gave to Vontaze Burfict last offseason. The deal pays Burfict to play and incentivizes him to stay on the field. If he’s injured, he doesn’t make nearly as much money as he has the potential to earn if he’s actually on the field. The Bengals could do something similar for Eifert, creating a contract where he’s paid per game on the field and paid for reaching milestones in catches, yards and touchdowns. This is also similar to how the Patriots have restructured tight end Rob Gronkowski’s contract. Eifert is an elite tight end ... when healthy. The problem is he’s just been injured far too often.
The Bengals are going to be smart with what they offer Eifert and we’ll have to wait and see if the two sides can work out a deal. I’m hopeful they can and will.
Kevin Huber (Punter): As one of the NFL’s better punters and a Cincinnati native, it only makes sense to re-sign Huber. I can’t really imagine the Bengals not getting this deal done and hope Huber is locked up with a new contract in the coming days. This should be the easiest deal the Bengals do this offseason.
Chris Smith (Defensive end): Smith is going to get some attention on the free agent market. He’s not a big name and hasn’t had overwhelming production but he’s a solid backup who can also fill in when needed as a starter at the defensive end position. He did what was asked of him in his one season with the Bengals and finished the year 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 re-sign Smith in order to keep the pass rush as a strength for this Bengals team.
Andre Smith (Offensive lineman): Smith did a serviceable job filling in for an offensive line that struggled last season. He had some really good games and some below average games. Still, re-signing Smith would be more of a depth move than anything else. Ideally, the team will also address the tackle position in the draft and further in free agency. With that said, Smith should be a bench player and backup option in 2018, not a starter for Cincinnati. Having an extra tackle who can come in and play solid is a luxury and the Bengals could do worse than utilizing Smith as a backup for the tackle positions.
Russell Bodine (Center): The Bengals have made it way-too-clear that the team plans to do what it can to re-sign Bodine. I’m not letting that move him into the re-sign category. That’s because Bodine is not a starting caliber center in the NFL. He does not deserve to have a job handed to him. And he should be competing for a role with a team, not being handed a role as he has for the last four years in Cincinnati.
Bodine is likely going to return to the Bengals and see no competition for his starting center role. But, that’s just not smart. If anything, the Bengals should re-sign Bodine with the intention of him being a backup to another free agent or top center in this year’s NFL draft.
Per Pro Football Focus, Bodine allowed 16 hurries in 2017, which ranks dead last (11th) among FREE AGENT centers. Imagine how many rank better than him who aren’t free agents. His pass blocking efficiency was graded as a 97.6 by PFF, which ranks eighth among the free agent center class.
With that said, it’s obvious the Bengals can do better than Bodine as the team’s starting center and even if he’s brought back the coaches need to add competition for his role.
Cedric Peerman (Running back): Peerman’s career with the Bengals is likely over after back-to-back seasons with injuries for the special teams stud. 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 as even Hill himself has said his public goodbyes to Bengals fans. When the Bengals drafted Joe Mixon in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft it signaled the beginning of the end for Hill as a Bengals running back.
Hill could find a team that revives his career in 2018, but it won’t be in Cincinnati.
Kevin Minter (Linebacker): The 2017 season didn’t go as planned for Minter. The former Cardinals linebacker bet on himself by taking a one-year deal with the Bengals to prove his value before hitting free agency again in 2018. He was reportedly offered a multi-year deal, too, which he turned down. Things didn’t work out as planned for the linebacker. Minter was average at best, and once Burfict returned from his suspension, Minter’s time on the field was minimal. Minter’s season also ended with an injury, and the Bengals would be better off finding 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 who can be added in free agency. Plus, Winston will be turning 35 next season.
Pat Sims (Defensive tackle): After a lengthy career in Cincinnati, Sims should be moving on in 2018. That’s even more true after the Bengals signed defensive tackle Chris Baker, who will serve in much of the same role Sims had during his time in Cincinnati.
AJ McCarron (Quarterback): Now that McCarron has been deemed an unrestricted free agent, he’s not going to be returning to Cincinnati where he was never viewed as more than a backup quarterback. McCarron is looking for a chance to start and he’ll be searching for a team willing to pay him to compete for a starting job. That could come in Cleveland with Hue Jackson and the Browns.