The bad news is that the Cincinnati Bengals recent history is:
No playoffs, Wild Card loss, Wild Card loss, Wild Card loss, Wild Card loss, Wild Card loss. Prior to 2016: five years, five Wild Card losses. The good news is that most of the Bengals history doesn’t even include the playoffs. Most of their seasons were finished before they started, but now Cincinnati is a major contender
Just because the Bengals went 6-9-1 last year, there is no loss of expectation that they should be a postseason contender again in 2017. However, several of their key starters are free agents and a couple more seem destined to buck the trend of Cincy being reluctant to cut veteran players before their original contracts expire. Which of these guys could be looking for a home in which they can both make the playoffs and win a postseason game, and could any of them wind up with the Seattle Seahawks?
Impending Free Agents
Andrew Whitworth, LT
First, some names ...
Walter Jones, 34
Orlando Pace, 34
Jonathan Ogden, 33
Willie Roaf, 35
Gary Zimmerman, 36
Richmond Webb, 34
These are the ages in the final seasons (or in the case of Webb, final effective season) for some of the best offensive tackles of our generation. Whitworth just turned 35 in December. It’s possible that he has two excellent years ahead of him, but I’d also buy that he could return next year, not look great or get injured, and that’s the end of it. Would you want the Seahawks to allocate $12 million of their 2017 budget to a tackle turning 36 during the season? You might. I don’t. He most likely stays in Cincinnati.
Kevin Zeitler, OG
Meanwhile, Zeitler (Russell Wilson’s guard at Wisconsin, when another current free agent, Ricky Wagner, was the left tackle) is a 27-year-old option who the Bengals may have a tougher time retaining. A first round pick in 2012, Zeitler is by no means a Pro Bowler but he is a solid player who will cash in on a market desperate for young offensive linemen who don’t suck. Look at the 2016 contract for Brandon Brooks ($40 million, $8 million/year with Eagles) as a starting point.
That’s more than Seattle is willing to spend, by all indications. Do they really need to allocate $8 million to upgrade right or left guard? Those aren’t the most desperate positions on the line. Expect them to focus their efforts at right tackle when it comes to adding experienced offensive linemen like John Schneider mentioned on Wednesday at the combine.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB
Alabama cornerback, disappointing career, under 32” arms. Not a target unless you’re a QB.
Margus Hunt, DE
Big bodied freak who drew a lot of attention at the 2013 combine (6’8, 277 lbs, ran a 4.6, 38 reps on the bench) with nothing but scores of potential. But that’s the thing with potential: Often it never materializes.
Hunt turns 30 in July (he was also an old prospect) and 1.5 career sacks. Some team will try to see if they can do something with him, but there’s not much hope left in the tank.
Rex Burkhead, RB
Burkhead is absolutely a free agent of interest to Seattle if the Bengals don’t come to a contract agreement with him before March 9. He is the perfect size (5’10, 215), 39” vert, 10’5 broad, quick in the 3-cone, short shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle. Last season, he broke out for 344 rushing yards on 4.6 YPC and 17 catches for 145 yards. He’s not a star by any means, and he’s relatively slow, but he could fit the Derrick Coleman role perhaps. Looking around below the top tier of free agent running backs, Burkhead stands out on the next wave who could be looking for $2-3 million instead of something more expensive.
Others: LB Karlos Dansby, NT Domata Peko, DE Wallace Gilberry, RB Cedric Peerman, WR Brandon LaFell, CB Chykie Brown, OT Eric Winston
Potential Cap Casualties
Adam Jones, CB
Even before his most recent run-in with the law, Jones was treading on thin ice after a poor season as he approaches 34. Cincinnati isn’t desperate to save money (though they could be after they re-sign Whitworth and Zeitler, if they do) but Jones reclamation project could be officially over.
The Bengals are known to “honor contracts” more than most franchises and will give players the last year on their deal, even if things aren’t going that well, but Maualuga is almost non-existent on defense recently. They need a huge upgrade at the linebacker position and they’d be paying Maualuga like a starter even though he was reduced to just 30% of the snaps last season.
Neither player would be in play for Seattle.
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