Despite the 2020 NFL season being completed on schedule, the salary cap for the 2021 league year is still expected to drop down to about $175 million. This will set up a very much unknown free agency period beginning in March.
The Cincinnati Bengals quietly have nearly 30 rostered players set to hit free agency. If the plan is to retain most of them, Cincinnati should have no problem. Most of the players are either reserves or simply won’t command pricey contracts this Spring. Some of the names, however, will attract interest from the other 31 franchises.
ESPN recently released their 50 best free agents list and three Bengals made the cut. The only surprise is how they’re ranked compared to each other.
22. A.J. Green, wide receiver
40. William Jackson, cornerback
46. Carl Lawson, edge defender
At the age of 32, this will be the first time Green enters free agency. His rookie contract was extended for four years back in 2015 and he just finished a full season playing under a fully guaranteed franchise tag. Once the deadline for Green and the team to reach a long-term deal expired last Summer, Green was bound to test the market after the season. But at this point in his career, is he really a top-25 free agent? We shall see once his market reveals itself.
Jackson and Lawson are the two that the Bengals will have interest in retaining, but they’ll likely re-sign just one of them. Being a cornerback with quality starting experience, Jackson will be able to make a good deal of new money. The question is simple: How much? If the asking price for the former first-round pick exceeds the Bengals’ own price, Jackson will have a new team. It’s tough to see Jackson returning on a deal bigger than what the Bengals gave Trae Waynes last offseason.
This leaves Lawson, who for some reason barely made the list at all. He proved himself as a starting edge defender this past season and is just 25 years old. Pass rushers are still higher on the food chain than cornerbacks when it comes to top average salary, so it’s very probable that Lawson ends up inking a deal larger than Jackson. If he doesn’t, then that would indicate the NFL still doesn’t see Lawson as a true starter and impact pass-rusher. The Bengals certainly wouldn’t mind if that was the case.
Which of the three do you think will re-sign with Cincinnati, if any of them do? Let us know in the comments section below!