As you have probably have figured out by now, we’ve used a number of criteria to determine the best Cincinnati Bengals players in the Marvin Lewis era. The amount of Pro Bowls said players were nominated to, their historical standings in significant franchise statistical records and other factors helped to comprise our list.
However, there were many other players who have played significant roles in the team’s turnaround seen under Marvin Lewis. Here are some of the honorable mentions of guys who just missed out on the top 10 list.
The rest of the best:
Domata Peko: Fans turned on him and his high-profile role towards the end of his career, but Peko remains one of the better draft picks in the Lewis era. His big physical presence played a major part in some of the team’s best historical defenses.
Big No. 94 is second among Bengals interior defensive linemen in tackles all-time with 265, and fourth among interior linemen in sacks with 18.5.
Michael Johnson: Sure, he’s lost a step these past few years, but he was a critical defensive player in the 2011, 2012 and 2015 playoff runs. In those three seasons alone, Johnson racked up 22.5 of his 40 with the Bengals—good for sixth-highest in team history.
Like his counterpart Carlos Dunlap, who was No. 7 on our list, Johnson has a knack of knocking down passes. His spot in the category rank 14th in team history, making he and Dunlap the only two defensive linemen in the category within the top-15.
Pat Sims: As far as rotational interior linemen go, Sims was a valuable member of the Bengals for a long time. His numbers are greatly skewed because of his being the first guy off of the bench, but he was a valued member of many great Bengals defenses—both under Mike Zimmer and Paul Guenther.
Tory James: In his inaugural offseason with the club back in 2003, Lewis had both more leeway than previous coaches in free agency, as well as the same financial restrictions laid down by owner, Mike Brown. James, a veteran corner from the Raiders came over that year and provided some great stability.
In just four years with the team, James ranked seventh in team history with 21 interceptions, out-dueling his big-play counterpart, Deltha O’Neal in as many seasons. Both corners stabilized the defense a bit and created numerous turnovers for a young Carson Palmer.
Johnathan Joseph: In both 2006 and 2007, the Bengals wisely used two first-round picks on cornerbacks. Joseph and Leon Hall provided a great tandem until 2011 when the former jetted to Houston for a big payday and unlimited Gatorade.
Though he had only 14 interceptions in five seasons, he did have three returns for touchdowns. In 2009, both he and Hall had outstanding seasons with six interceptions apiece, as the defense carried the team to an improbable sweep of the AFC North and a subsequent playoff berth.
Robert Geathers: This one may make some fans cringe, but Geathers truly was a “Lewis guy.” Over 11 seasons, Geathers only racked up 34 sacks (good for ninth-best in team history), but he was a very valuable piece of the defense—both against the run and in the locker room. His 10.5 sacks in 2006 remains one of the best single-season marks in team history.
Justin Smith: The big defensive end was a grandfathered into Lewis’ system and spent four years under his new coach. Even though most of his major league accolades came in his tenure with the 49ers, would it surprise you to know that most of his major statistics were even with both clubs?
His 43.5 sacks with Cincinnati (same number with San Francisco) ranks fourth in team history, while his 314 total tackles are second in team history among defensive linemen.
Rich Braham: The Bengals’ line in the early-to-mid aughts was one of the best in the league. While guys like Willie Anderson and Andrew Whitworth rightfully gained most of the notoriety, Braham was a solid cog in the middle of things for four years under Lewis.
Levi Jones: Remember when Mel Kiper, Jr. freaked out about the Bengals drafting Jones in 2002? Neither do we.
He spent six years with the team and was a Pro Bowl alternate at a time. He really hit his stride right around 2005 when the team became a force in the AFC North.
Bobbie Williams: Sense a theme here? Williams was one of the team’s biggest (no pun intended) free agency pickups, spending eight seasons with the club and being a part of three postseason teams.
Cedric Benson: Corey Dillon left the Bengals in 2004 and Rudi Johnson broke down after 2007. The Bengals needed some sort of option and scanned the waiver wire.
From 2009-2011, Benson had three-straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and he ranks fifth in team history with 4,176 rushing yards. He’s also ninth with 21 touchdowns.
Tyler Eifert: Unfortunately, the former first round pick hasn’t reached his full potential because of a myriad of injuries, but he had an outstanding season in 2015 that netted a Pro Bowl berth. Currently, Eifert scores a touchdown every 6.4 catches he makes.
Reggie Nelson: Talk about ripping off a team. Back in 2010, the Bengals sent cornerback David Jones and a conditional pick to Jacksonville for Nelson—the former player didn’t even make the Jaguars’ squad, while Nelson spent six productive seasons with the Bengals.
Aside from his 2015 Pro Bowl nomination, he ranks sixth in team history with 23 interceptions. His averaging of almost four interceptions per year is one of the best by a Bengals safety in team history.
Adam Jones: The emotionally-explosive defensive back had a great career rebound with Cincinnati. He spent a sometimes-tumultuous eight seasons with the team in a number of different roles.
He seemed to actually have gotten better with some age, as some of his best all-around football was played in his early 30s. Whether as a cornerback or a kick returner, Jones provided good value to the team on a number of different fronts.
Jermaine Gresham: Though he called himself a “villain” in the eyes of Bengals fans, Gresham did have a number of nice moments and accolades with the team. His two Pro Bowl berths aside, he is among the tops at his position in every major historical team receiving category.
Jeremi Johnson: Usually fullbacks aren’t viewed as overly-valuable to a club, but Johnson was a beast for a handful of years under Lewis. After being drafted in the fourth round of Lewis’ inaugural class, he paved the way for two of Rudi Johnson’s franchise record-breaking campaigns and was a surprisingly-athletic outlet for his size for Palmer.
Brian Simmons: Lewis inherited Simmons, the lesser-heralded linebacker between he and Takeo Spikes—both 1998 first round draft choices. The soft-spoken leader ranks third in team history with 502 total tackles, 15th in sacks with 23 and second in forced fumbles with 13.
John Thornton: The big interior lineman wasn’t drafted by Lewis, but was one of the team’s better free agent acquisitions. He spent six years with the team and became one of the locker room leaders in the early years of Lewis’ tenure.
Thornton ranks just behind Peko in sacks for interior lineman with 17, while forcing three fumbles and grabbing three. He also had 153 career tackles.
Deltha O’Neal: See above with Tory James. O’Neal had 17 interceptions with the Bengals after coming over in a trade and though Lewis’ defenses had more of a “bend-but-don’t-break” mentality in its earlier incarnations, but O’Neal provided a lot of big plays, hence his No. 9 ranking in interceptions in team history.
Shayne Graham: Though he missed a couple of big kicks in his career, Graham still is viewed as one of the best kickers this team has ever had. He’s second in team history in field goals made with 177 and is tops in kicking accuracy (among those with significant attempts) with an 86.8% clip.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh: Even though he recently gave us some not-so-nice glimpses into the pre-Marvin Lewis era with the Bengals, “Housh” ended up being one of the best draft stories in the modern era. The seventh-round pick back in 2001 ended up making a Pro Bowl with the Bengals and set the team’s single-season receptions record with 112.
Vontaze Burfict: The star-crossed linebacker is one of the most polarizing players the team has ever had, but when he’s healthy and off of suspension, he’s also one of the most productive. He made a Pro Bowl back in 2013, but he hasn’t played a full season since.