Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and director of personnel Duke Tobin have some important decisions to make in the upcoming weeks as the new league year awaits.
Several key players are scheduled to hit the free agency this year. The Bengals find themselves in a good position from a salary cap standpoint but it’s undetermined at this point where they will allocate their money.
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Here’s a look at which players are scheduled to be come free agents on March 16:
Bengals unrestricted free agents
Any player with four or more accrued seasons and an expired contract; free to negotiate and sign with any team
- Riley Reiff
- Larry Ogunjobi
- CJ Uzomah
- Josh Tupou
- Vernon Hargreaves
- Kevin Huber
- Brandon Allen
- Jessie Bates III
- Clark Harris
- Eli Apple
- Jordan Evans
- Quinton Spain
- Mike Thomas
- B.J. Hill
- Jalen Davis
- Tre Flowers
- Darius Phillips
- Fred Johnson
- Auden Tate
Exclusive rights free agents
Any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum the player cannot negotiate with other teams
- Trenton Irwin
- Clay Johnston
- Mitchell Wilcox
- Wyatt Ray
Restricted free agent
A player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers that come with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation. If the tender is withdrawn by a team, the RFA becomes an unrestricted free agent
How much cap space do the Bengals have?
According to Spotrac, the Bengals are projected to have roughly $55 million in salary cap space which is the fourth-most in the NFL.
Player to keep your eye on
The main player to keep an eye on for the Bengals is Bates and the decision will come in the next few weeks. Cincinnati has from Feb. 22 to March 8 to place a franchise or transition tag on Bates, if they choose to go that route. The Bengals and Bates were unable to get a long-term deal done heading into this season and because of that, it’s likely they’ll apply the franchise tag on their top safety.
If Bengals place franchise tag on Bates, what does it mean?
If the Bengals opt to place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Bates, it means Cincinnati will pay him for one year only the average of the five highest salaries of the safety position over the last five years or 120 percent of his previous salary, whichever is greater. Bates would be free to negotiate with other teams in this case. Ultimately, the Bengals would have the right to match any offer or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation if he signs with another organization. Players typically don’t like one-year deals, but it ensures Bates will get a significant bump in his contract for the following season and will remain in Cincinnati for the 2022 season. If the Bengals want to keep Bates in Cincinnati for the foreseeable future, the tag is the best option based off what the market could offer him. Bates, a team captain and one of the best defensive players on the roster, showed his value to the Bengals and all other 31 teams in the playoffs.