Bengals 101 has covered all the bases on the unrestricted free agents the Bengals might be looking at, and starting with the NFL Combine this week, we'll begin to dissect this year's draft class. There are some high quality players out there we haven't talked about though, the NFL's restricted free agents.
Restricted free agents don't move very often for a couple of reasons. First, the negotiating window for these players is very small (teams may negotiate with RFAs up until a week before the draft) and their price is usually very high, both in money and compensation to their previous team. Since the team holding the rights to the RFA can match any offer made, the offer from a competing team must be enough to both convince the player that he should leave and convince the team that matching the offer is not in their interest. The players being bid upon in this category are usually front-line stars that require first round draft picks as compensation as well.
The upside to signing one of these players is their youth. RFAs only have three years of service, so a team is most likely getting a better return on their investment with regard to the player's longevity. Because these players are both young and talented, they are usually the ones that receive franchise tags or have the offers matched. That is unless a team has an unusual amount of talent at a particular position or are salary cap hindered to the point where they can't match the offer.
The Cincinnati Bengals with their $40 million plus to play with this off season are in a unique position to escalate the price on a player they might really covet, and with extra draft picks, have the ability to absorb that hit, too.
There aren't many players worthy of this kind of investment, but this year there are some cap and roster situations that make pursuing an RFA not only possible, but since they are known NFL commodities, a surer investment than what the draft can bring. Here are three players that the Bengals might make a run at to fill some holes at key positions.
RB Arian Foster: The Bengals know only too well what Arian Foster brings to the table. It's almost inconceivable that the Texans would let him get away, but keep in mind, they also have Ben Tate in the fold. Could the Bengals make an offer that both Foster and the Texans can't refuse? Even if the Bengals used their extra first round pick to trade up for Trent Richardson, they wouldn't be necessarily getting a back the caliber of Foster. The only knock on Foster is his injury situation. He's had trouble keeping his hamstrings healthy.
WR Mike Wallace: Again, the Bengals are well aware of Wallace's abilities. Imagine a receiver with his deep speed lining up opposite AJ Green. I'm sure Andy Dalton has dreamed about it. Of course not only would the Bengals gain the benefit of Wallace's considerable talents, but would take him away from division rival Pittsburgh as well. So why would the Steelers let this happen? Quite simply their cap situation is a mess. With the departure of Bruce Arians and the seeming re-emphasis on the running game, Pittsburgh might be reluctant to spend on a tight budget for Wallace.
CB Lardarius Webb: The Baltimore Ravens have a glut of cornerbacks. Webb would bring great speed and deep cover ability to the position as well as special teams abilities. Webb probably wouldn't warrant first round compensation either.
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