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Predicting the fate of every Bengals free agent

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Two former first-round picks and a lot of other players have likely seen their last days in a Bengals uniform. Before free agency begins, we predicted what will happen with every one of Cincinnati’s free agents.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

All of the talk surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals being more active in external free agency this year might say something about how internal free agency will play out. The latter is usually where the vast majority in which most of their annual piggy bank funds are allocated, while the former is left out to fend for itself with the buzzards.

Things are a little bit different when you were the worst team in the NFL last year.

We’re going to see a sizable turnover of the Bengals roster this offseason, and that will start within the next few weeks when free agency officially begins on March 18th. There are 17 current Bengals entering unrestricted and restricted free agency, and by now, we have a pretty good idea whether or not each one will end up returning to the Bengals next season.

Here are our predictions for every Bengals free agent.

A.J. Green

  • Position: wide receiver
  • 2020 age: 32
  • 2019 AAV: $15,000,000
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: franchise tag

This is like predicting what the Bengals’ will do with the first pick in the NFL Draft. Green is not hitting the open market under any circumstances and anyone making a claim that he will is not basing that on any facts or legitimate information. The only question is whether or not the front office will be able to sign him to a long-term deal before the July 15th deadline so he won’t have to play on the tag.

Darqueze Dennard

  • Position: cornerback
  • 2020 age: 29
  • 2019 AAV: $4,500,000
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

Dennard’s free agency period last year was a perplexing one. While many believed he would secure a multi-year deal, his little-known knee injury and rejected aspirations of becoming a boundary cornerback soiled his market. As a result, he ended up back in Cincinnati on a one-year deal. The knee scope he had done in the offseason forced him to miss the first six games of the year and a separate hamstring ailment sidelined him for another game.

When Dennard was healthy, he had one of his better seasons manning the slot for the Bengals’ otherwise troubled defense. The ability is still there, but there just doesn’t seem to be much commitment from either side to stay together. Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic reported this week that both Dennard and the Bengals are “focused in different directions”, and with Dennard’s inability to stay healthy and his presumed desire for a more expansive role on defense, it would be no surprise to watch the Bengals let him sign someplace else.

Tyler Eifert

  • Position: tight end
  • 2020 age: 29
  • 2019 AAV: $4,000,000
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

For starters, we should all be happy for Eifert. The 2019 season was the first year the former first-round pick played a full 16-game schedule in his NFL career and he did it whilst playing under his second-straight one-year contract.

The Bengals were rightfully cautious in paying and playing Eifert last year, and for how much they reserved him, they have to be happy with his output (436 yards, 1.22 yards per route run). But, in what may’ve been a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario, Eifert proving his durability may work against the Bengals’ favor here.

Eifert and his agent have to be on the lookout for something more than a one-year rental deal at this point. This may be the first and last time Eifert gets a shot at a multi-year contract and aside from the fact that they may not trust him to continue staying healthy, the Bengals just don’t utilize the tight end position enough to pay him.

C.J. Uzomah is already getting paid like a starter and they want Drew Sample to carve out a bigger role. Still, Eifert has noted his fondness for the team and the city of Cincinnati in previous years.

Even so, this is probably the end of Eifert’s days in stripes, but at least it ended on a positive note.

Kerry Wynn

  • Position: edge defender
  • 2020 age: 29
  • 2019 AAV: $1,400,000
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

One of the few external free agent signings from last offseason, Wynn only played 11 snaps in two games before he missed the rest of the season with a concussion. There is zero reason for the Bengals to bring him back. Judging by their interest in Chris Smith, they’ll likely replace him with another free agent.

John Jerry

  • Position: offensive lineman
  • 2020 age: 34
  • 2019 AAV: $930,000
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

Jerry was originally signed as a contingency for Clint Boling’s eventual retirement and Jonah Williams’ season-ending injury, but the long-time guard actually played at left tackle for 436 of his 445 snaps last season. He was surprisingly adequate at times, but he’s not in the offensive line’s plans going forward.

LaRoy Reynolds

  • Position: linebacker
  • 2020 age: 30
  • 2019 AAV: $805,000
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

There’s going to be three new linebackers on the roster this season at the bare minimum, and Reynolds, who was a waiver claim from last September, will not be one of them.

Nick Vigil

  • Position: linebacker
  • 2020 age: 27
  • 2019 AAV: $777,657
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

Staying on the subject of this inevitable linebacker turnover, Vigil is a bit of a wildcard. No one on the roster at this position has played in Cincinnati longer and, to his credit, the end of 2019 saw him playing the best football of his career. It was probably too little, too late for the former third-round pick, but a potential one-year prove-it deal is not completely off the table.

Gun to our heads; Vigil’s probably not coming back. They want, and need, new blood at their weakest position group.

Andrew Billings

  • Position: interior defender
  • 2020 age: 25
  • 2019 AAV: $718,961
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: re-signed to multi-year deal

I mean, they have to sign at least one of their own, right? Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin made it known at the NFL scouting combine that they were working on new deals for some of their own players, and Billings seems like a logical choice for a new contract. Not only has he established himself as one of their more consistent defenders, he just turned 25 years old.

Billings has more than earned a raise, and the Bengals should want to be the team that gives it to him.

Brandon Wilson

  • Position: safety
  • 2020 age: 26
  • 2019 AAV: $645,000
  • Status: restricted free agent
  • Prediction: second-round tender, one-year deal

Had Wilson not gotten waived early in his career, his original rookie deal would keep him under contract until next year. Thankfully, because he’s a restricted free agent, the Bengals will have no issue bringing back their NFL-leading kickoff return man, who also provides rotational value as a versatile defensive back. Expect the second-round tender (worth ≈ $3.2M) to be used on Wilson.

Josh Tupou

  • Position: interior defender
  • 2020 age: 26
  • 2019 AAV: $645,000
  • Status: restricted free agent
  • Prediction: second-round tender, one-year deal

No matter what the Bengals end up doing with Billings, Tupou is almost assuredly returning to the defensive line. He was used at every interior technique alignment along their odd-man front and flashed at each one. The Bengals will not want another team matching their offer, so like Wilson, expect the second-round tender to be used on him.

Alex Redmond

  • Position: guard
  • 2020 age: 25
  • 2019 AAV: $645,000
  • Status: restricted free agent
  • Prediction: original-round tender, one-year deal

Redmond’s future seems like the weirdest of the RFAs to project. He stuck around after he served a four-game suspension to start last season and even started two games following his return. The coaches love what he brings on the practice field, but they’ll never be able to translate that to consistent positive performances on the field.

There’s no harm in keeping him around during training camp and the preseason, which is the safer route to predict, but it’s up in the air beyond that.

Tony McRae

  • Position: cornerback
  • 2020 age: 27
  • 2019 AAV: $645,000
  • Status: restricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

You think McRae is going to be safe in a year when Dre Kirkpatrick and Dennard are both on the way out? Think again. There’s going to be a purge at cornerback.

Torry McTyer

  • Position: cornerback
  • 2020 age: 25
  • 2019 AAV: $645,000
  • Status: restricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

You think McTyer is going to be safe in a year when McRae, Kirkpatrick and Dennard are all on the way out? Think again. There’s going to be a purge at cornerback.

Greg Mabin

  • Position: cornerback
  • 2020 age: 26
  • 2019 AAV: $645,000
  • Status: restricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

You think Mabin is going to be safe in a year when—you get the idea.

Hardy Nickerson

  • Position: linebacker
  • 2020 age: 26
  • 2019 AAV: $645,000
  • Status: restricted free agent
  • Prediction: gone

He’ll probably be back in training camp for some reason.

Clayton Fejedelem

  • Position: safety
  • 2020 age: 27
  • 2019 AAV: $600,888
  • Status: unrestricted free agent
  • Prediction: re-signed to multi-year deal

Fejedelem is the unquestioned leader of—now also assistant head coach—Darrin Simmons’ special teams unit. To see Simmons let the former seventh-round pick leave after his promotion would be shocking to say the least. Fejedelem stays around for a few more years on an affordable deal, bet on it.

Cethan Carter

  • Position: tight end
  • 2020 age: 27
  • 2019 AAV: $558,333
  • Status: restricted free agent
  • Prediction: original-round tender, one-year deal

Another vital member on special teams, Carter can be retained for cheap and provide depth at tight end so the Bengals don’t absolutely have to draft one this year.