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PFF predicts big contracts for 5 Bengals free agents

Big money.

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Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have a lot of talent set to hit the free agent market in 2024.

The bad side of drafting so well is having a lot of really good players to pay at the end of their contracts. With Joe Burrow, Logan Wilson, and Germaine Pratt all in the fold for the next handful of years, another 2020 NFL Draft pick is up for a payday.

Pro Football Focus released their Top 100 NFL Free Agents, with contract projections for all of them. In the Top 100, Brad Spielberger listed five Bengals.

Tee Higgins is the highest ranked, checking in at No. 4. Spielberger doesn’t have a long-term contract breakdown, as he expects Higgins to get the franchise tag.

“Injuries have hampered almost the entire 2023 season for Higgins after his second consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2022 with a receiving grade above 75.0,” Spielberger said. “A franchise tag already seemed likely heading into the season, and with little new data to impact the negotiation either way, that seems inevitable. The field-stretching, jump-ball receiver should have the chance to bounce back in 2024 along with the entire Bengals team following a disappointing season.”

The next Bengal on the list came at No. 19 with defensive tackle D.J. Reader. Spielberger has Reader getting a three-year, $45.75 million contract, which breaks down to $15.25 million per year. That projection includes $29.75 million total guaranteed.

“Only injuries have been able to slow Reader down in Cincinnati,” Spielberger explained. “Otherwise, he has been a dominant force on the interior of a talented defensive line that was able to control the line of scrimmage and win big games up front over the past few seasons. The eighth-year pro has been the anchor in the middle.

With Reader suffering a torn quad, PFF still seems to think he lands a nice payday.

At No 26., Spielberger had Chidobe Awuzie. The projected contract for him is a two-year, $23 million contract ($11.5 million per year) with $13.75 million in total guarantees.

“Awuzie was one of a series of slam-dunk free-agent acquisitions for the Cincinnati Bengals over the past few years, providing the team with a bona fide No. 1 outside cornerback for just $7.25 million annually,” said Spielberger. “Awuzie tore his ACL in 2022, and the Bengals have used four Day 2 picks on defensive backs over the past two draft classes, which signals he should be testing out free agency once again. He has returned to form nicely in 2023, though.”

With the emergence of Cam Taylor-Britt and much to be excited about with DJ Turner, it is likely Awuzie finds a new home this spring.

Offensive tackle Jonah Williams came in at No. 54 on the list with a projected four-year, $64 million contract, which would pay him $16 million per year. The projection includes $40 million guaranteed.

“Williams requested a trade this past offseason after the Bengals signed free agent tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to take over on the left side, but he eventually rescinded the request and got back to work mastering his craft at right tackle, where he hadn’t started since his undergraduate days in college at Alabama,” Spielberger said. “The former first-round pick has always been an above-average pass protector and has stayed healthy throughout 2023. While Williams may not have the ceiling perceived coming out of college, a high-floor pass-blocker with a strong pedigree should do fairly well in unrestricted free agency with the league-wide scarcity of solid tackle play.”

The last Bengal on the list is Tyler Boyd, who is listed as the 74th-best free agent in the class. With a two-year, $17.5 million contract projection of $8.75 million per year, one would think the Bengals could make that work. The $10.75 million total guaranteed could be the issue.

“Boyd is a big slot receiver with solid blocking chops in the run game,” Said Spielberger. He rarely ever drops a target and does well to sit down in soft spots of zones on key passing downs. However, Boyd is on pace for career lows across the board in 2023, and with so many big financial decisions facing Cincinnati, the Bengals may not be willing to offer him as much as other teams looking to upgrade their unit over the middle.”

What do you think? Can the Bengals keep any of these guys at these contract projections? Let us know below in the comment section!