CINCINNATI -- As you may have seen, there has been a little news on the Cincinnati Bengals front in the past 24 hours, as longtime defensive end Robert Geathers and receiver Greg Little were released Friday as the organization made its second and third cuts of the offseason.
Clearly, the Bengals are trying to trim players who have recently had minimal impact. With nearly $40 million projected in salary-cap space, they also are configuring their roster in a way that it ought to be able to handle the signing of one or two large-contract free agents. Earlier this offseason coach Marvin Lewis promised the club would be more aggressive in free agency. The team appears to be setting itself up for just that.
Now that one veteran defensive lineman is gone, will the Bengals cut another who has a contract that's viewed as burdensome?
That's where we begin with this week's Bengals mailbag:
@ColeyHarvey What are the chances the bengals release Peko? His play seemed pretty underwhelming this year.
— Samuel Edward (@sambreezy_nati) February 27, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: With Geathers now out of the picture, it doesn't appear the Bengals will be moving Domata Peko. They had a choice to make in cutting linemen and went with the player who was slightly older and who really didn't make much of a statistical splash this season, one year after season-ending elbow surgery. Peko didn't have an overwhelming season by any stretch in 2014. You're right. But he did play well in spurts. Most notably, he registered eight tackles each in the games against the Patriots and Saints. He has also been viewed for several years as a defensive leader in the locker room, and a voice the team couldn't go without. You could say the same for Geathers, meaning it wouldn't make much sense for two key leaders to be shown the door.
Peko does hold a large contract, but it's one the Bengals are content with shouldering for now, considering they just signed him to a two-year extension last season. Besides, they don't owe him anymore guaranteed money, meaning they could cut him and recoup a savings of $3.7 million toward the cap. So yes, cutting him still is a possibility, but it appears more faint now. Geathers' release seems a clear sign the Bengals believe they have a better chance of signing a quality defensive end in free agency than a tackle.
@ColeyHarvey Bengals FO states there's a different approach to off-season. What can we expect?? Maybe a run at Hardy/Hughes/Graham/Knighton?
— Mike (@MikeThomas_1970) February 27, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: We've talked all offseason about how important it will be for the Bengals to strengthen their pass rush, and they could do it any number of ways. They could sign a tackle that could help Geno Atkins push through the line of scrimmage. They could add an edge rusher with real presence who could draw attention, freeing up some of the double teams Carlos Dunlap picked up last season. They also could bring in an outside linebacker who could be a regular blitzer. Or, they could do a combination of all three.
Lewis did say this year that he believed the approach to free agency would be slightly different. I'm still in wait-until-I-see-it mode with that, but I'm apt to believe him. Again, the Bengals have the cap space and they only really have A.J. Green's pending extension as the lone big-money contract they could start working through. When it comes to a likely free agent like Greg Hardy, yes, the Bengals might have to pay him close to seven figures annually if they sign him, but he has a track record (24 sacks his last two full seasons) to prove he could be worth it. Jerry Hughes, who had a cap value of about $4 million to go along with his 10 sacks for the Bills this season, could be a more logical option from a monetary standpoint. This was a long-winded way of saying that while slightly skeptical, I do expect the Bengals to be more aggressive than usual.
@ColeyHarvey Do you think the Bengals will go after AJ Hawk or Jacoby Jones in FA?
— Cody Wesley (@c_wes13) February 27, 2015
@ColeyHarvey: Cody, the best answer I can come up with on A.J. Hawk is "we'll see." The recently cut former Green Bay Packer definitely fits the mold of free agent the Bengals will be targeting this year, and he could be important to helping Cincinnati add much-needed depth at linebacker. He's also from Southwest Ohio, is an Ohio State product, and would be celebrated throughout the region if he donned stripes for at least a year. There are reasons to be lukewarm on him, too, though. He's coming off ankle surgery and by all accounts has lost a step. As for Jacoby Jones, my vote is no. Same goes for Ted Ginn, another Ohio State product and receiver who just hit free agency this week. The Bengals need players who can catch passes and return kicks like them, but this draft class is full of slightly cheaper talent that fits that bill..