The Cincinnati Bengals figure to be big players in the free agency market a month from now, but there are plenty of unsigned players from their roster with futures in question. Last week, I began highlighting both sides of the coin on a few Bengals free-agents with murkier futures, including Carl Lawson and William Jackson III. A significant portion of the Bengals cap space will go to their own in an offseason crucial to the franchise's future.
Here are some pros and cons surrounding the best of the rest in Cincinnati's free agent class.
Josh Bynes — LB
Josh Bynes' veteran presence helped staunch the bleeding wound that Bengals' linebackers had opened the past few seasons. Cincinnati was in search of any consistency in the middle of their defense. Bynes obliged with 99 tackles, five tackles for loss, and one sack.
Pros: Bynes brought reliability and consistency in his first season starting all 16 games in 2020. One of the longest-tenured NFL players on the team, bringing professionalism and experience to a young group. The linebacker allowed just 5.9 yards per target in coverage. Bynes finished 2020 with a 52.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. It's hard to imagine his price tag going up from the $1.65 million he made last season.
Cons: Bynes' performance has a palatable floor, but the ceiling keeps getting lower as he enters his 11th season. The Bengals have to inject speed on both sides of the ball, and Bynes is slowing down. He had a 14% missed tackle rate, which was his highest since 2015. The veteran has forced just seven turnovers in 117 career games.
Mike Daniels — DT
The Bengals signed Mike Daniels early on in training camp last season as an able body on the interior. Daniels played in 11 games as he battled injury in the middle of the season, finishing with 16 tackles and one TFL.
Pros: Daniels won't cost much on the open market, had his worst career season on a $1.45 million contract. He brings back nine years of NFL experience and helps fill out the depth at defensive tackle.
Cons: Has missed five or more games in three straight seasons. Daniels' average tackle depth in 2020 was 3.8 yards past the line of scrimmage his worst since 2015 by 1.5 yards. Finished a season without a sack or double-digit pressures for the first time since 2015.
Margus Hunt — DE
A familiar Estonian face returned to Cincinnati for nine games in 2020. Margus Hunt signed back with the team that selected him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Across 13 games with the Saints and Bengals, Hunt posted ten tackles, one sack, and nine pressures.
Pros: Hunt brought some of the size and strength back to the defensive line that was missing after Carlos Dunlap went to Seattle. He totaled a career-high four pass breakups with the Bengals this season.
Cons: After forcing 48 pressures in 2017-18, Hunt has 15 pressures in the past two seasons combined. He's finished with multiple sacks just once in his career. The Bengals have been down this road before with the 33-year old.
Brandon Allen — QB
The Bengals' backup quarterback started on shaky ground but turned things around quickly, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 925 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions. Allen's long journey through different organizations might have found a more permanent home.
Pros: The Arkansas product showed a lot of improvement week to week in Zac Taylor's system. His completion rate improved 17 percentage points from 2019 to 2020. Allen also cut his sack rate in half and improved his catchable throw rate from 56% to 78%. The journeyman didn't present a massive drop off from Joe Burrow's production, finishing with 5.33 adjusted net yards per attempt. Burrow averaged 5.72 before his season-ending knee injury.
Cons: Allen ranked 86th in total cap hit among quarterbacks last season. His production warrants top-50 status, slotting his new deal around $2 million. He also has a clear ceiling and is still nothing more than an average NFL backup quarterback.
Samaje Perine — RB
Samaje Perine had a career year in 2020, finding his role in Cincinnati's backfield with Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard both missing time due to injury. PFF tabbed Perine as the Bengals' highest-graded offensive player (76.7 Overall) as he ended 2020 with 63 carries for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
Pros: Ran angry week in and week out as he led all Bengals with 30-plus rushes in yards per carry (4.8). Perine averaged 9.1 YPC on outside runs, showing he can hit the home run. A capable blocker in an offense that requires a lot of protection responsibilities from the running back. Staple member of the 2020 special teams unit, playing 288 snaps.
Cons: There is a less than zero chance that he replaces Bernard if the Bengals move on from the veteran. Perine doesn't bring the same level of versatility receiving out of the backfield as Bernard. The former-Sooner totaled 11 catches for 66 yards in 2020.
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