Outlook for the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals

Outlook for the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals
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Rookie wide receiver A.J. Green (Georgia) is expected to start right away and could win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
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Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is about to become the new face of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Cincinnati Bengals were 4-12 last season and tied for the second worst record in the NFL. The Bengals were in a lot of games, but made mistakes at critical points in games and it resulted in a poor season. However, the Bengals did become a better passing team, but it came at the cost of their run game.

This season, the Bengals want to rebuild their team by focusing on their run game since their Terrell Owens isn’t coming back and Carson Palmer apparently wants nothing to do with the Bengals.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Bengals addressed their wide receiver issues by selecting a playmaker in A.J. Green (Georgia) with their first-round pick. In the second-round, the Bengals found their new future quarterback in Andy Dalton (TCU).

With the addition of their rookies, let’s take a look at the Bengals’ current roster and see what positions are still in need of upgrades.

Quarterbacks (4)

Andy Dalton, Jordan Palmer, Dan LeFevour, Carson Palmer

Rookie Andy Dalton (TCU) is expected to receive the “bulk” of the snaps in training camp, but could end up as a backup to whomever the Bengals the bring in from free agency. Dalton isn’t ready to start this early because he hasn’t spent any time with the coaches, due to the Lockout. If Dalton were to start, the Bengals would be looking at a losing season with no more than five wins because Dalton would be overwhelmed with the differences in the NFL and College style of play. Dalton would struggle because the NFL playbooks are much bigger, their defensive players are much better and the media will be all over him if and when he messes up.

Jordan Palmer is a tendered restricted free agent, but will remain with the team with a possible chance to start if the Bengals can’t find a stopgap veteran and Andy Dalton proves that he isn’t ready to lead the team. However, Palmer has completed 10 of his 15 career pass attempts for 59 yards and 2 interceptions while in backup duty, so it remains doubtful that he would have success as a starting quarterback. If the Bengals are able land a quarterback in free agency, Palmer would be relegated to competing for the third quarterback job with Dan LeFevour, with the loser getting cut.

Dan LeFevour was productive as a college quarterback at Central Michigan but lacks NFL-caliber arm strength. LeFevour has drawn comparisons to Chad Pennington by ESPN NFL Draft Guru Mel Kiper, but will need to play like him in order to make the Bengals roster as their third quarterback.

Carson Palmer told the Bengals after the 2010 season that he wanted to be traded or he would retire. Palmer has grown frustrated with the Bengals’ struggles and wants a fresh start somewhere else. Palmer threw for 3,970 yards, 26 touchdowns and 20 interceptions last season, but his team finished with the second worst record in the NFL and it’s obvious that the Bengals are not going to be able to compete with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011. The Bengals will eventually have to give in to Palmer’s trade demands because he is scheduled to make $11.5 million and will be a disruption in the locker room if he drops his retirement talk. Potential suitors for Palmer include: the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and Washington Redskins.

Free Agent Analysis:

Let’s pretend that Carson Palmer is on the Bengals roster. Their three quarterbacks would be Andy Dalton, Jordan Palmer, and Dan LeFevour. None of those quarterbacks has any starting experience in the NFL and that would leave the Bengals with a scary situation heading into Opening Day. Dalton needs a veteran former starting quarterback to help him deal with the everyday life in the NFL and career backups J. Palmer and LeFevour don’t know what it’s like to be the face of a franchise. Dalton is going to need a lot of help, especially since the Bengals have a new offensive coordinator and it will be a learning process for the whole offense. Potential Free Agents that could start for the Bengals immediately include: Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, J.P. Losman, and Alex Smith

Halfbacks (3)

Bernard Scott, Cedric Peerman, Jay Finley

Bernard Scott probably won’t be the starter in 2011 because he is not durable enough to handle the full time duties of a starter. Cedric Benson is expected to resign, but if he doesn’t the Bengals are expected to bring in other free agents. Scott had 61 carries for 299 yards and 1 touchdown in 2010. Scott averaged 4.9 yards per carry, but is more of a complementary back like Darren Sproles. Expect Scott to receive more carries and have a role as a third down back in 2011.

Cedric Peerman is an asset on special teams, but will end up competing for the third-string halfback job with Jay Finley. Peerman had 2 carries for 1 yard in 2010 and will need a strong preseason to remain on the Bengals.

Rookie Jay Finley (Baylor) became a starter in his senior year and had 195 carries for 1,218 yards and 12 touchdowns in his final season. Finley averaged 6.3 yards per carry and showed impressive patience and burst, but he is not a tackle-breaker or a homerun threat. Finley’s size (5’11’’, 208 pounds) and lack of speed make it unlikely that he’ll ever be a starter, but he should be able to beat out Cedric Peerman as the third-string halfback.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati needs a starting-caliber running back because Bernard Scott is too small (5’10’’, 197 pounds) to be counted on as the featured back of the Bengals. Cedric Benson is expected to resign with Bengals, but if that somehow doesn’t work out, the Bengals will need to look in the free agent market for their answer. Potential Free Agents include: Joseph Addai, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ronnie Brown, Michael Bush, Brian Westbrook, and DeAngelo Williams

Fullback (3)

Fui Vakapuna, Chris Pressley, James Develin

Fui Vakapuna was expected to be Cedric Benson’s lead blocker last season, but came down with a shoulder injury before Opening Day and was waived as a result. Vakapuna will get another chance in 2011 and should be able to beat out Chris Pressley as the Bengals’ starting fullback.

Chris Pressley is a good run blocker, but could become Fui Vakapuna’s backup, because Vakapuna is better at catching the football and if Dalton is named the starting quarterback, he is going to need backs to check down to as he steadily develops into a quarterback.

James Develin played on the defensive line and at linebacker in the Cleveland Browns’ rookie minicamp last year, but is listed as a fullback on the Bengals roster. Assuming it’s not a typo, Develin can considered a development project that will likely end up back on the Bengals’ practice squad in 2010.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati is probably going to start Fui Vakapuna at fullback since he would’ve started last year if not for a shoulder injury. If Vakapuna were to get hurt, Chris Pressley could easily take over.

Wide Receivers (8)

Chad Ochocinco, A.J. Green, Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Quan Cosby, Shay Hodge, Ryan Whalen

Chad Ochocinco is in the final year of his contract, but is expected to be released once the Lockout ends because the Bengals are tired of his antics and believe that he doesn’t have the passion for football anymore. Once released, Ochocinco could have a bunch of suitors, but would likely sign with the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, or New York Jets.

Rookie A.J. Green (Georgia) is the favorite to become the Bengals’ No. 1 receiver in 2011, assuming Chad Ochocinco gets released. Green scored 23 touchdowns in 27 career college starts and his difference-making deep threat ability should allow him to help quarterback Andy Dalton develop into a NFL quarterback.

Jordan Shipley had 52 receptions for 600 yards and 3 touchdowns as a rookie last season. It was a very productive season for the slot receiver, whose role is likely to expand. Shipley had a concussion mid-season last year, but bounced back the week after by setting career highs for a game with 6 receptions for 131 yards.

Jerome Simpson will become the Bengals No. 2 receiver, assuming Chad Ochocinco is let go. Simpson was the Bengals fifth receiver last season and appeared in only 5 games, but had 20 receptions for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns. Simpson didn’t receive playing time at the beginning of the season because he struggled to grasp the old playbook. Simpson should be able to handle the new playbook this year though because he met with new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden immediately after the Super Bowl.

Andre Caldwell was the Bengals fourth receiver last year and appeared in 15 games last season. Caldwell had 25 receptions for 345 yards, but closed out the season in a strong fashion. Caldwell should receive the same role next season, assuming Chad Ochocinco is let go.

Quan Cosby made the team as a punt returner last season, but may become expendable in 2011. As a receiver, Cosby only had 2 receptions for 16 yards, so the chances that he’ll be back are slim because he didn’t do that well as a punt returner in 2010, averaging 7.5.

Shay Hodge went undrafted last season, but made the Bengals’ practice squad and was promoted for the Bengals’ last game of the season. Hodge didn’t play the last game, but he might be given a chance to make the 2011 team because he was A.J. Green’s teammate at the University of Georgia. Green is going to be a key member of the Bengals and if they can make him feel comfortable, it should help Green make an easier transition to the NFL.

Rookie Ryan Whalen (Stanford) is a possession receiver, but his 4.62 forty time and his size (6’1’’, 202 pounds), suggest that he won’t have much of a role in the Bengals’ offense. Whalen will probably end up on the practice squad, but could find his niche as a special teamer.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati doesn’t need any wide receivers since they are in rebuilding mode.

Tight End (3)

Jermaine Gresham, Chase Coffman, Garrett Mills

Jermaine Gresham had 52 receptions for 471 yards and 4 touchdowns. Gresham showed the ability to be a dominant tight end, but he was inconsistent with his blocking, route-running, and pass catching in his rookie season. Gresham’s struggles were to be expected though because he was a rookie, but his fundamentals should get better as he becomes more familiar with NFL’s style of play.

Chase Coffman appeared in six games in 2010 and only had 3 receptions for 30 yards. Chase Coffman added more muscle in 2010 could be developing into a better blocker. The Bengals are going to be switching their offensive plan and will be utilizing the run more, so Coffman’s blocking skills could ultimately decide how long he lasts with the team.

Garrett Mills is a former fullback that converted into a tight end. Mills played 7 games for the Bengals in 2010, but only had 2 receptions for 19 yards. As a former fullback, Mills knows how to run block, which should help him earn a place on the Bengals’ roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati has three young tight ends and two of them are proven blockers. The Bengals’ tight ends should be good enough to help block outside blitzes and run block which should enable the Bengals to go along with their plan of running the ball more to ease quarterback Andy Dalton into the NFL.

O-Line (11)

Andrew Whitworth, Clint Boling, Kyle Cook, Bobbie Williams, Anthony Collins, Andre Smith, Reggie Stephens, Dennis Roland, Andrew Mitchell, Otis Hudson, Andrew Gardner

Andrew Whitworth allowed only 1.5 sacks last season, but committed 13 penalties as well. Whitworth is quickly becoming one of the best left tackles in the game, but if he wants to make a Pro Bowl, he’ll have to cut down on his penalties.

Rookie Clint Boling (Georgia) has the potential to become a solid pass-protecting guard, but should begin the 2011 season as Nate Living’s backup, assuming Livings resigns as expected.

Kyle Cook is an above-average run blocker and should be the Bengals’ starting center for the next few years.

Bobbie Williams has missed just three games over the last six years and has excelled in both run and pass blocking. Williams is 34 years old, but he is still in good shape and playing at a high level, so the Bengals have nothing to be concerned about just yet.

Anthony Collins should enter the season as a starter because the Bengals have a 7-2 record and average 110 rushing yards per game when he starts. Andre Smith was drafted to be the future right tackle of the Bengals, but Anthony Collins has severely outplayed them.

Andre Smith fractured his fifth metatarsal in his left food last November and remained in a walking boot 7 months after his surgery. Smith might be healthy by opening day, but given that this is the same foot that he broke in 2009, the Bengals better start Anthony Collins instead to Smith more time to recover.

Reggie Stephens made the practice squad last season, but his ability to play guard or center and his versatility should him a spot on the Bengals roster in 2011.

Dennis Roland is a restricted free agent and is expendable given his inconsistencies as a right tackle for the Bengals. Roland should remain with the team until cut down day, but unless he is able to show the Bengals that he has improved his game, Roland stands to be one of the players most likely to be cut.

Andrew Mitchell is a 6’5’’, 311 pound tackle with the potential to make a very good backup to Andre Smith. He’ll be competing with Dennis Roland for the last tackle spot on the team.

Otis Hudson and Andrew Gardner both signed reserve/future contracts and both will need strong preseasons if either of them stands a chance to make the team.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati is going to resign Nate Livings and they should be set after that.

D-Line (9)

Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Tank Johnson, Antwan Odom, Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers, Pat Sims, Frostee Rucker, Clinton McDonald

Carlos Dunlap set the Bengals’ rookie record with 9.5 sacks last season. Dunlap played in a nickel role at the beginning of the season, but eventually earned more playing time and recorded all of his sacks over the final eight weeks. Dunlap will start at left end, since he is the Bengals’ most talented pass rusher, but he needs to work on his fundamentals and cutting down on mental mistakes.

Domata Peko had 42 tackles and .5 sacks as one of the Bengals’ captains last year. Peko is known as a run stopping defensive tackle, so the low number in sacks should be expected.

Tank Johnson had 10 tackles and zero sacks in seven games, but his season ended early with an injury to his right knee. Johnson is on thin ice and needs a strong training camp or he might lose his starting job to Geno Atkins. Atkins is a better pass rusher and certainly deserves the job, but Johnson has experience and is better against the run.

Antwan Odom has potential when he’s healthy, but an Achilles tear has hurt his production since he put up 8 sacks in just six games in 2009. Odom is set to make $4.5 million in 2011 and has only played in 21 games in his three-stint with the team, but he won’t get cut unless he struggles in training camp. Assuming Odom can bounce back to his former dominating self, the Bengals pass rush will be a force to be reckoned with

Geno Atkins appeared in all 16 games last season and had 3 sacks in a rotational role. Atkins ability to get to the quarterback should potentially allow him to replace Tank Johnson in the starting lineup.

Robert Geathers will play a rotational role as of now, but his $3.95 million contract is high for a backup. Either Geathers or Odom will be released, and while Geathers only had 1 sack in 16 starts last season, Odom’s injury history might keep Geathers on the roster.

Pat Sims is in the final year of his contract and is entering 2011 as a rotational defensive tackle. In 2010, Sims started 8 of the 14 games he appeared in and had 31 tackles and a career high 2.5 sacks. Sims is a nose tackle and might finally be developing some pass rushing moves. If Sims can get to the quarterback more in training camp, he could unseat Tank Johnson as a starter.

Frostee Rucker has three sacks over his four-year career in Cincinnati, but won’t be cut just yet because he is only scheduled to make $1.25 million. If Rucker has a weak training camp though, the media could influence the Bengals to get rid of him.

Clinton McDonald spent most of last season on the practice squad, but was promoted when Tank Johnson went down with an injury. McDonald is in the final year of his contract and if he doesn’t perform for the Bengals in training camp, it might be his last chance to play in the NFL.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati is set at defensive line and will likely be cutting a few players to save more cap room.

Linebackers (7)

Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson, Roddrick Muckelroy, Dontay Moch, Vincent Rey, Dan Skuta

Keith Rivers finished second on the Bengals with 77 tackles despite playing most of the season with plantar fasciitis. Rivers also had 1 sack, but needs to work on his coverage skills. Rivers is only 25 years old and still has room to grow, but his improvement in stopping the run is encouraging.

Rey Maualuga is motivated for the 2011 season because his Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer called him “extremely average” Maualuga is also going to be switching to middle linebacker and the extra responsibilities that he’ll be given should help him become a better player.

Michael Johnson spent last offseason learning how to be linebacker, but Johnson was called upon to play defensive end because Antwan Odom had struggled since coming off his Achilles tear. Johnson flashed difference-making pass rushing ability in a situational role in preseason last year and the Bengals want to blitz more in 2011. Johnson will be ripe for the picking in coverage, but by him moving to strong-side linebacker, Rey Maualuga will be able to replace Dhani Jones. However, if Odom were to struggle again, Johnson would likely shift back to defensive end and another linebacker would step in.

Roddrick Muckelroy should step into the fourth linebacker role for the Bengals this season after playing in the goal-line package last season. Muckelroy rewarded the Bengals with two goal-line stands in his limited role and with a strong preseason, he could potentially change the Bengals’ coaching staff’s minds about moving Rey Maualuga to middle linebacker.

Rookie Dontay Moch (Nevada) will receive a situational role on defense and a huge role on special teams as a gunner. Moch’s size and speed (4.44 in the forty) will give him a huge advantage in punt coverage and be a nightmare for opposing teams’ returners.

Vincent Rey was promoted from the practice squad late last season, but only played on special teams. Rey had 3 tackles in two games last season, but should be able to secure a backup job considering that the Bengals are currently thin at linebacker.

Dan Skuta appeared in all 16 games last season and had 16 tackles and 1 forced fumble. Skuta played special teams primarily, but managed to start one game as well. Skuta obviously won’t start in 2011, but should be able to land at least a backup role.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati should resign Brandon Johnson once the resigning period starts. Johnson was Keith Rivers’ backup last season, but could potentially switch over to the strong-side linebacker position and compete for the starting job. Dhani Jones is getting older and the Bengals are in rebuilding mode, so it appears as though they’re willing to let him go. The Bengals aren’t expecting to make the playoffs in 2011 and want Rey Maualuga to get comfortable at middle linebacker.

Cornerbacks (7)

Leon Hall, Pacman Jones, Morgan Trent, Jonathan Wade, Brandon Ghee, Korey Lindsey, Rico Murray

Leon Hall is the Bengals’ top cover cornerback and is in the last year of his contract. Hall is currently one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL and has made 58 starts in his first four seasons with a franchise-best 18 interceptions. Hall never receives any attention though because he plays for Cincinnati, but that could all change next year as he can expect a huge pay raise over the $3,037,500 he will make in 2011.

Pacman Jones should start opposite Leon Hall in 2011, assuming that the Bengals don’t bring in another cornerback and that Jones doesn’t get suspended. Jones was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest on July 10 and is scheduled to appear in court on July 18. If found guilty, Jones could lose a whole lot more as he is a repeat offender and would be facing another lengthy suspension by the NFL, possibly even a lifetime ban.

Jonathan Wade was burnt as a starting cornerback for the Lions, but held his own in his in his first start with the Bengals on Thanksgiving against the Jets. Wade faced Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes in man coverage, but did well enough to earn two more starts after. Wade could potentially be counted on as a starter if the Bengals opt to not sign any in free agency.

Morgan Trent was placed on injured reserve last season with a knee injury that he suffered back in Week 9. Trent has been a nickel and dime cornerback in his two season with the Bengals, but isn’t ready to challenge as a starter just yet. Trent is signed cheaply through 2012 and should resume the same role in 2011, assuming that he recovers.

Brandon Ghee had 9 tackles in six appearances last season, but could compete for the nickel job. Ghee possesses size (6’0’’, 190 pounds), speed (4.45 forty time) and athleticism, but lacks the ball skills and instincts to be a starter.

Rookie Korey Lindsey (Southern Illinois) is an underrated prospect with NFL ability and could possibly challenge for a nickel role. He has solid technique and showed great playmaking ability with his 14 career interceptions in college. Lindsey has even showed a willingness to stop the run, so he could potentially become a steal in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Rico Murray landed on injured reserve near the end of last season with an ankle injury after being promoted from the practice squad. Murray never made a play in 2010 and could be cut since he is set to make $480,000 and is not going to have any significant contributions.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati won’t be able to resign Jonathan Joseph, and Pacman Jones could get suspended, leaving the Bengals with a huge hole at cornerback. Potential Free Agents include: Phillip Buchanon, Chris Carr, Drayton Florence, Carlos Rodgers, Lito Sheppard, Ike Taylor, and Fabian Washington

Safeties (5)

Reggie Nelson, Chris Crocker, Tom Nelson, Robert Sands, Jeromy Miles

Reggie Nelson made 54 of 57 possible tackles and had 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, while starting 6 of the 16 games he appeared in last season. With the departure of Roy Williams via free agency, Nelson will be counted on to take over the starting free safety job, allowing Chris Crocker to switch over to strong safety. Nelson has starting potential as he showed in his rookie season with the Jaguars when he had 5 interceptions.

Chris Crocker missed the last six games of the season last year due to a torn MCL and PCL, but his recovery has gone smoothly enough that he’d be ready to play “tomorrow” if there were a game. Crocker will move over to strong safety in 2011 and let the faster Reggie Nelson play free safety. Crocker isn’t a ball hawking safety and the move should allow him to be more active against the run. Crocker had 43 tackles and 2 forced fumbles in 2010.

Tom Nelson missed the first 5 games of the season last year with an ankle injury, but was able to secure a special team role. Nelson never received a look when Crocker went down his injuries, so it’s obvious that the Bengals only view him as a backup.

Rookie Robert Sands (West Virginia) struggles to tackle in space and as a result, he will become Reggie Nelson’s backup despite his size (6’4’’, 217 pounds) to play strong safety. Sands showed good speed and great ability to cover ground in college which is why the Bengals feel more comfortable putting him at free safety.

Jeromy Miles made the Bengals practice squad as an undrafted rookie last season, but was later promoted for depth purposes when the Bengals lost Roy Williams and Chris Crocker to injuries. Miles should make the team in 2011, but it’ll be as a backup and probably as a special teamer.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati is set at safety and won’t bring in a high priced upgrade. The Bengals want to remain relatively cheap while they’re in rebuilding mode and want to see how Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker perform together.

Kicker (2)

Mike Nugent, Clint Stitser

Mike Nugent suffered a torn ACL and MCL last season, but was among the least accurate kickers in the NFL prior to his injuries, converting only 78.9 percent of his field goals. Nugent converted 1 of 3 field goals from 40-49 yards away and 2 of 4 field goals from 50+ yards away. Nugent hasn’t earned anything and the Bengals’ kicker job is up for grabs

Clint Stitser converted 87.5 percent of his field goals but missed a 29-yard field goal as well as 2 extra points last season. Stitser doesn’t deserve to be the Bengals kicker, and will likely be cut.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati needs a kicker since Mike Nugent and Clint Stitser are among the worst kickers in the league. Potential Free Agents include: David Akers, Matt Bryant, Shayne Graham, Ryan Longwell, Olindo Mare, Jeff Reed and Adam Vinateri.

Punter (1)

Kevin Huber

Kevin Huber was among the best punters in the league last season, averaging 42.1 yards per punt with only 6 touchbacks and 28 punts inside the 20-yard line. Huber could become a Pro Bowler in the next few years because the Bengals offense isn’t expected score a lot anytime soon and he’ll be able to become more accurate as a punter.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati has a good punter who is a hometown boy, since he played for the University of Cincinnati.

Long Snapper (1)

Clark Harris

Clark Harris is known for his gloves that he uses when he snaps the ball. Harris is also known for replacing Brad St. Louis in 2009 after St. Louis struggled with his field goal snaps. Since then, Harris has done a remarkable job and has job security going forward.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati doesn’t need to upgrade this position

Kick/Punt Returners (2)

Bernard Scott, Quan Cosby

Bernard Scott averaged 22.4 yards per kick return last season, but likely won’t be the kick returner in 2011 if Bengals’ Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden gives him a bigger role in the offense.

Quan Cosby averaged 7.5 yards per punt return last season and could potentially be stripped of punt return duties. Cosby averaged 11.9 yards per return in 2009, but his drop in production plus the fact that he hasn’t scored a touchdown in his NFL career is why the Bengals will be looking elsewhere on their roster.

Free Agent Analysis:

Cincinnati will search their roster for potential returners and don’t need to look at the free agent market for help.

Bengals Unrestricted Free Agents (14)

Cedric Benson, Jonathan Fanene, Brandon Johnson, Dhani Jones, Johnathan Joseph, Reggie Kelly, Brian Leonard, Nate Livings, Evan Mathis, Chinedum Ndukwe, Terrell Owens, Marvin White, Roy Williams

Cedric Benson is expected to resign with the Bengals as the lead back and Bengals first-year Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden sounds like he’s planning on having Benson on the team next year. “We have to find a way to get the best possible scenarios to get Cedric as many touches as possible without killing him,” said Gruden. In 2010, Benson averaged 3.5 yards per carry and rushed for 1,111 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. Benson was also more active in the passing game in 2010 and set a career high with 28 receptions and caught his first receiving touchdown in the NFL.

Jonathan Fanene was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, but is said to be the Bengals’ third priority when it comes to resigning players. Fanene had 6 sacks when he replaced Antwan Odom in 2009, but only had 1 tackle in the 2 games that he appeared in last season.

Brandon Johnson was Keith Rivers’ backup last season and could be resigned, but his comments about enjoying the Lockout could hurt him. “I’m actually kind of enjoying my time off,” he said. “I get a lot of family time in, I get to kick it with my friends, and I get to do a lot of traveling. I don’t have to spend eight hours at the stadium.” Cincinnati and other NFL teams will question whether he still loves to play football.

Dhani Jones has missed just three games during his 10-year NFL career and is coming off a season in which he led the Bengals in tackles with 125. Despite his productive season in 2010, the Bengals are in rebuilding mode and were expected to let the 33-year-old walk before the Lockout, so it’s unlikely that the Bengals will resign him.

Jonathan Joseph is 27 years old and is being called the second best cornerback available in the free agent market, behind only Nnamdi Asomugha. Joseph arguably has better ball skills than Asomugha and has flashed potential as a shutdown corner. The Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Seattle Seahawks are reportedly the favorites to land Joseph if he doesn’t resign with the Bengals.


Reggie Kelly is not going to resign with the Bengals because he offers nothing in the passing game and was only a mediocre blocker after a torn Achilles wiped out his 2009 season. The Bengals are going back to power football and need blocking specialist tight ends.

Brian Leonard is a four year veteran and was tendered at a second-round level by Cincinnati before the Lockout, so it appears that the Bengals still want to keep him. If resigned, Leonard would probably handle the third-down role again in 2011.

Nate Livings won the starting left guard job last year because Evan Mathis was returning from a foot injury in training camp. As a starter, Livings struggled to protect Carson Palmer, but according to Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander, Livings played well enough to keep his starting job in 2011. Livings has great size at 6’5’’, 332 pounds, but will have to improve his pass protection or he might be relegated to backup duty for the rest of his career.

Evan Mathis won’t be back with the Bengals next season because the Bengals have enough depth at guard, making him expendable. Mathis is a solid run blocker and has flashed talent in spot duty. Mathis won’t be one of the big name free agents this year, but he could have a big impact if he signs with a guard-needy team.

Chinedum Ndukwe wasn’t extended a tender prior to Lockout and is an unrestricted free agent. When a team fails to extend a cheap tender to a player, it usually means they’re set on cutting ties. Ndukwe finished last season on injured reserve with a torn left MCL, but he should be able to find a backup job elsewhere after the Lockout.

Terrell Owens blamed the Bengals’ coaching staff for the team’s offensive struggles and has overstayed his one-year welcome in Cincinnati. Owens had ACL surgery back in April, but should be healthy by Opening Day. Potential buyers won’t need to be concerned with his knee, but T.O.’s influence in the locker room could make some teams hesitate to sign him.

Marvin White was sign late last season to add depth and pitch in on special teams. White could be brought back considering that his price tag is going to be low.

Roy Williams has played in just 19-of-48 games over the past three seasons, and is not expected to return next season. His replacement is going to be Reggie Nelson, who fared better than expected in his first year with the Bengals.