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We are less than five days away from the start of the NFL's free agency period and Bengal fans everywhere are curious to see how (in)active the will be. Some fear that the team will sit on their hands even though they have a pile of money at their disposal, while others believe that they'll sign a handful of middle-tier prospects while focusing on retaining their own.
Whichever course they take, fans may want to consult Peter King's recent list of the top-50 free agents that are set to become available next Tuesday. With some of the names that are being thrown around as possible signings for the Bengals, it's interesting to get a national sportswriter's perspective on the market.
Not surprisingly, the recently-released Peyton Manning tops the list. But one doesn't have to look too far down from Manning to see some dream players for the Bengals.One could argue that the team's biggest need this offseason is at cornerback. The team could be in the market for two or more and free agency would be a wise avenue to take for one of those roster spots. The two top cornerbacks on the open market, Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr, are ranked No. 3 and No.6 overall, respectively. After that, Carlos Rogers comes in at No.11, Tracy Porter at No.28 and Terrell Thomas at No.49. It's not exactly a list that sets the world on fire, but if the Bengals were to land one of these players (especially Finnegan or Carr), it would help their defense immensely.
Offensive guard is the other position that one could argue is the biggest need. The two big free agents in the 2012 market are Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs. Nicks comes in at No.4 overall on King's list and surprisingly Grubbs is slated at No.34 overall. They sandwich former Bengals guard, Evan Mathis, at No.21 on the list. Nicks and Mathis both seem unlikely for the Bengals, due to Nicks' price tag and Mathis' ire for his former employer. Grubbs is a possibility, but he'll likely command big money as well and that again may be too rich for blood. Still, the team went after a plethora of guards last offseason and none of them really panned out, so a big name could still be a possibility here.
Another major position of need for the 2012 Bengals is wide receiver. This year's free agent market is absolutely flooded with them. Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Pierre Garcon, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Mario Manningham, Laurent Robinson, Josh Morgan and Robert Meachem all made King's list. Any one of these players could come in and immediately take over the No.2 spot opposite A.J. Green, taking pressure off of the Pro Bowler. If the Bengals want a good veteran wide receiver this year, there's seemingly no reason that they can't grab one.
In terms of running backs, there aren't many that make the list.--three, in fact. The highest on the list? Former Bengal Cedric Benson. King continues his bitterness towards the Bengals franchise by making Benson the only Bengal to make his Top-50 list. With the team likely to go a different route from Benson, the team could look at Nos. 31 or 37 on the list in Mike Tolbert or Peyton Hillis. Both are big backs that could become welcomed additions to Jay Gruden's new "running back by committee" philosophy. The other big back with a big name, Michael Bush, didn't make King's list. In case you haven't heard, rumors are swirling about Bush landing in Cincinnati.
Defensive lineman are plentiful on this list and one who the team has been linked to rates very highly on the list. Defensive end Jeremy Mincey comes in just after Mario Williams on the list at No.7 overall. King admits that he probably overrated him, but he does have him ahead of bigger names like John Abraham and Juqua Parker. It's doubtful that he'll get the payday that some of the other pass rushers will, but like Williams he seems to be in his prime and is quite a few years younger than other pass-rushers that will be available.