A count of 11 starters, sometime starters and regulars are set to become free agents after Sunday’s game. That is, when the collective bargaining agreement gets settled.
NOTE: We apologize. We mistakenly had right guard Bobbie Williams and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker on the list. They are under contract for 2011. A brief look:
CB Johnathan Joseph, turns 27 on April 16; 57 starts since 2006: Has formed one of the top cornerback tandems the past two years with Leon Hall. No question about his athleticism, but only two of his five seasons have been injury free. He’s looking at somewhere between $8 to $10 million. Will they pay that to a guy who has missed 13 games with Hall, who has never missed a game, up next year?
RB Cedric Benson, turned 28 on Dec. 28; 38 starts since 2008: Has gained more yards in his first 40 Bengals games than Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson. His durability, toughness and passion are unquestioned. He’s missed just two games because of injury and the Bengals are 11-1 when he carries at least 24 times. Concerns are his seven fumbles this season and that he has just two runs this year of at least 22 yards.
TE Reggie Kelly, turns 34 on Feb. 22; 99 starts since 2003: Another great-leader type and locker-room rock. The concerns are his age and the lingering impact of his torn Achilles. The torch appears to have been passed to Jermaine Gresham.
MLB Dhani Jones, turns 33 on Feb. 22; 56 starts since 2007: About to win his third straight team tackling title. Coaches have relied heavily on his experience and smarts to be a coach on the field that makes calls and gets guys in the right spots. There are the age concerns and his trouble in pass coverage this season. Rey Maualuga has been groomed, but is he ready?
WR Terrell Owens, turned 37 on Dec. 7; 11 starts in 2010: Could have been named the club MVP after leading the team with 72 catches and nine touchdowns. But it looks and sounds like they’re going younger and less dramatic at receiver.
S Roy Williams, turns 31 on Aug. 14; 14 starts since 2009: After being hurt most of last season, he’s been reliable and active this season, but they may have to look to get younger at a safety spot in which they came up with just two forced fumbles this year.
S Chinedum Ndukwe, turns 26 on March 4; 31 starts since 2007: Physical presence who took some heat this year when the Bengals gave up a spate of big plays. Regular special teams contributor. He’s young, knows the scheme and seemed to have won over Mike Zimmer until the big plays.
WLB Brandon Johnson, turns 29 on April 5; 15 starts since 2008: Incumbent special teams captain who was their most productive backer in ’09 and continues to add spice to the third-down package with versatile skills in coverage.
DL Jon Fanene, turns 29 on March 19; 15 starts since 2005: Only played two games this year because of a hamstring problem just as he seemed to be coming into his own. Had a career-high six sacks last season both at tackle and end. His versatility makes him a valuable guy on third down and coming off the bench.
RB Brian Leonard, turns 27 Feb. 3; one start since 2009: Solid third-down guy who has made a slew of big plays since coming over in May, 2009 trade. Reliable and steady, he turned out to be a steal in their first player-for-player deal in 19 years.
G Evan Mathis, turns 29 March 16; seven starts since 2008: Rotated much of last season at left guard and it’s been a surprise he hasn’t played more this year, when he hasn’t had a start. Seen as reliable and smart and during his career has played or practiced at all the line spots.
Tags: 2011 bengals free agents
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