Good Monday morning, folks. Welcome to the Cincinnati Bengals' last week of offseason workouts before the start of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs).
That's right, starting next Tuesday, the Bengals will get together as many of the 88 players on the roster as they can for a week of outside practices and drills as their offseason regimen takes an important turn. Unlike all but one of the league's other 31 teams, they elected to skip a rookie minicamp this year, deciding instead to throw the rookies into the fire with the veterans starting next week. Coaches believe that on the heels of the later-than-normal draft this year, a combined OTA and upcoming mandatory minicamp will better aid the rookies in their development than if they have an early rookie camp, followed by a break before the start of any other full-team camps.
Along with tracking storylines pertaining to the Bengals' offseason training, we'll also be tracking the next few days or weeks, the potential extensions the team is trying to work out for quarterback Andy Dalton and linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Speaking of those extensions, that's where we begin with Monday's Quick Takes:
1. Salary-cap room. OK, you've probably seen by now that the Bengals have about $24.5 million remaining in their salary-cap spending pool for the 2014 season. That's a lot of money, right? That's a lot of money that can be evenly split to Dalton and Burfict, right? That's a lot of money that could end these contract negotiations pronto, right? It certainly seems that way, but in actuality, the Bengals need a few more million to feel perfectly comfortable about re-signing both players, and inking each of their eight draft picks and possibly a few of the undrafted free agents they just signed last week. It's possible to believe two or three or more of the undrafted free agents ends up making the team. As I've said before, when you take into account what all goes into the remaining salary-cap figure, there's more of a balancing act that goes on there than you probably would believe. It's not so cut and dry as saying, well, give Dalton $18 million annually and Burfict about $7 million and boom, you're right at the cap limit. There's potentially 10, 11 or 12 other contracts -- smaller contracts for slotted rookie deals, mind you -- that have to be accounted for. Additionally, it's also hard right now to pinpoint where exactly other cap savings will come from eventual offseason cuts.
2. Why the rush? Maybe it started because of coach Marvin Lewis made the statement at the owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, that he wanted Dalton re-signed sooner rather than later, but there appears to be a real impatience among those outside the team's offices to get these extensions signed. Remember, sometimes the big second contract takes time to hammer out. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap didn't sign his extension last offseason until July. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins was staring at a possible year in limbo before inking his deal five days before the season opener last year. There's plenty of time for Dalton and Burfict to get their contracts once the rest of the offseason dust settles. That said, after last week's reportedly promising meeting with Burfict's representatives, it does appear the Bengals are much closer to getting a deal worked out for the undrafted linebacker than they are for Dalton. The big takeaway from these two Quick Takes ought to be this: The salary cap isn't all that cut and dry, and sometimes these kinds of things take time. The way things seem to be trending, these deals will get done. The only question is when.
3. 'My brain is not working.' Here's a story you should check out if you haven't already. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Tom Groeschen caught up recently with Bill "The Spoiler" Staley, the player the Bengals selected with the second pick in their inaugural draft in 1968. The current-day Staley is a man with, as Groeschen put it: "Rage issues. Bitterness toward the NFL. A memory that comes and goes." Staley believes repeated concussions from his time playing football have turned him into an always-in-pain shell of his former self.
4. Maualuga's debut. Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga made his debut on the big screen this past weekend, appearing briefly in Disney's "Million Dollar Arm," a movie about a down-on-his-luck agent who travels to India and finds two 18-year-old boys who he believes he can turn into major league baseball stars. The movie is based on a true story. Maualuga filmed his lines last summer. Instead of attending last week's premier in Los Angeles, though, he was in Cincinnati going through offseason workouts. He told the Dayton Daily News' Jay Morrison last week that he wanted to stay and work with his teammates. Disney is ESPN's parent company.