Sunday, February 29, 2004

Bengals' free agents



By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Bengals have seven restricted free agents and are expected to make one-year tender offers to some of them as early as Monday.

The Bengals have the right to match offer sheets a restricted free agent might receive from another team or get varying levels of compensation, depending on tender.

A $628,000 tender gets a draft pick in the round the player was drafted. The $1.368 million tender gets a first-round pick as compensation. The $1.824 million tender gets a first- and third-rounder.

A closer look:

Shayne Graham, kicker: Made 88 percent of field goals and stabilized kicking situation. Bengals expected to tender him the lowest amount.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, wide receiver: Missed significant time because of injury and lack of special teams position. Might not be back. Bengals might try to draft a fourth wide receiver from a deep pool available in April.

Riall Johnson, linebacker: Had role on special teams. Could be let go in favor of new arrivals through draft or free agency.

Rudi Johnson, running back: The team's possible featured back of the future, Johnson is expected to draw the highest tender.

Kevin Kaesviharn, safety-cornerback: He's another player who just as easily could be gone as could stay. Not expected to attract major interest on market and could come back with the $628,000 tender.

Victor Leyva, guard-tackle: The Bengals like this fourth-year player, but he hasn't been given an opportunity to show his stuff. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander considers Leyva a key part of the line's depth.

Tony Stewart, tight end: The best combination of blocking and pass receiving talent at the position. He probably will be back as a valuable player on special teams, in spot offensive duty and as one of the most community-oriented people on the roster.

Unrestricted FA's

The Bengals have eight unrestricted free agents. A closer look:

Rogers Beckett, strong safety: Started nine games and provided big plays. He has said he wants to return, but won't get big contract from Bengals that he might get from another team.

Brandon Bennett, running back: Great team player but struggles with injuries. Job as third-down back and special teams player could go to Kenny Watson.

Rich Braham, center: Coach Marvin Lewis saw in 2003 what Bengals teammates have known for a long time - Braham's the toughest guy on team. He would provide veteran brains and experience for first-year starting quarterback Carson Palmer.

Mike Goff, guard: Had one of his best pro seasons after moving back to right guard from center. He's another smart player who fits well into Bengals offensive system.

Shane Matthews, quarterback: It's hard to see him coming back to be permanently stuck as No. 3 behind Palmer and Jon Kitna.

Matt O'Dwyer, guard: He will be granted stated desire to sign with another team and regain starting role he lost in 2003.

Mark Roman, free safety: Bengals tried to sign him to contract extension before season ended. He made 16 starts and was fifth with 83 tackles.

Glen Steele, defensive tackle: He could be back at bargain price, but Lewis could possibly give Steele's backup job to second-year tackle Langston Moore.

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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