CINCINNATI -- As of Saturday morning, the Cincinnati Bengals have 17 players who could be eligible for free agency this time next year. Of them, 12 are regular contributors.
As a result, there is a very real need for the franchise to start using some of the rollover money it has been stockpiling and apply it toward extending the contracts of a couple of those players this offseason so as to abate the forthcoming frenzy that could come next March.
This weekend's mailbags are dominated with questions about preparing for the mass of talented free-agent deals that could be on the 2016 horizon. Let's get to them:
@ColeyHarvey Do you expect the Bengals to only keep one of Jones/Sanu? If so, do they draft their replacement this year?
— Landry Smith (@landrysmith) March 6, 2015
@ColeyHarvey. Good question, Landry. It's probably too early to say if the Bengals are ready to pick between re-signing receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, but that quandary will preoccupy them soon enough. Both Jones and Sanu are among three Bengals wideouts scheduled to hit free agency next year. Pro Bowler A.J. Green's rookie contract is set to expire after he exercises his fifth-year option this season.
For now, I'd bet the Bengals want to keep all three. Green's value is well-documented, and Sanu gave them meaningful reps -- his seven drops notwithstanding -- last season in place of Green, who missed multiple games with injuries. Jones didn't play at all in 2014 after suffering a series of early-season ankle and foot injuries but had a strong 2013 season and is hopeful about building on it when he returns this year. Because they haven't seen Jones in game action for more than a year, the Bengals probably want to reserve judgement on him. It's likely they'll let him play out this season before offering him an extension. It appears Sanu will be playing out the final year of his rookie contract, too. As far as potential replacements getting drafted, I don't think that's on the table right now. The Bengals need receivers, but it's more about recommitting to the long-term depth of the position than replacing players currently on the roster.
— wazthree (@wazthree) March 6, 2015
@ColeyHarvey. Not to burst your bubble, but I'm going to keep the answer to this one very simple. No. The Bengals are not going to go after Randall Cobb. As good of a receiver -- and as great a return man -- as he is, he doesn't make financial sense for a team that would be better served committing money elsewhere. Reports have indicated Cobb wanted $12 million per year before the Packers cut him last week. Earlier this week we explored why signing a player to that kind of contract didn't make sense for a Bengals team that entered free agency with about $15-18 million to spend.
@ColeyHarvey do you think Percy Harvin is a realistic option?
— Nick Stephens (@N_Steezy4) March 6, 2015
@ColeyHarvey. Again, not trying to be a Debbie Downer here, but sorry, Nick, I do not. There's a financial component to adding Percy Harvin that likely won't work, and there's a chemistry component that makes him a bad fit, too. We expanded on both a little further in an earlier offseason mailbag. There are all kinds of reports about his poor locker-room attitude and lacking relationship with teammates. When you have a group that's as seemingly tight-knit as the Bengals are, bringing in free agents with a reported history of attitude issues with teammates sounds like a bad idea. Harvin to the Bengals isn't realistic at all to me.
@ColeyHarvey any chance they bring Gresham back?
— Aaron Stevens (@daddytomason) March 6, 2015
@ColeyHarvey. To complete the trifecta of adverse reponses, no. There hasn't seemed to be much of a chance that tight end Jermaine Gresham would be coming back since the Bengals' playoff loss at Indianapolis. Remember, that was the second of two key late-season games that Gresham didn't play in despite testing out injuries before kickoff. After the first missed game -- Week 15 at Cleveland -- he returned for the very next practice. Following the playoff game, he wouldn't talk when I tried to ask him why he didn't feel ready to play. Based on conversations with multiple people around the team after that game, Gresham lost any shred of respect he had with certain people around the organization. So no, I don't foresee him coming back. The only reason it could happen is if he has no other legitimate offers and the Bengals aren't pleased with the tight end landscape. After all, they need a blocker to replace him, and there are relatively few candidates in free agency or the draft who can adequately do that.
@ColeyHarvey Do you think the Bengals will sign any big name player(s) this offseason?
— Ross Louis Hofele (@RoHoe5) March 6, 2015
@ColeyHarvey. There are a number of ways I can answer this question. I'll start by responding with a question of my own: What's your definition of a big-name player? Is it one who commands a large salary? Is it a player who simply has a recognizable name? Is it Suh? If it's the latter case, then no, the Bengals won't be making that move. They also aren't going to break the bank unless they're signing only one free agent from the outside. Of course, they've already inked Rey Maualuga and are expected to re-sign Clint Boling. But beyond that, the only other "big-name" free agent I could foresee them signing is a pass rusher. As I've been saying, Greg Hardy and Jerry Hughes are two ends who fit that bill. Hardy could come with a $7-10 million per season price tag and a lot of baggage following the dismissal of his domestic violence charges. Would that be big-name enough?