The 2011 Cincinnati Bengals relied on a defensive line rotation that kept fresh bodies on the field all game long, allowing them to keep constant pressure at the point of attack. That translated into a top 10 ranked defensive unit and a playoff berth. Yesterday, the Bengals lost two key components of that rotation when Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene accepted offers to play elsewhere.
Rucker accepted a five year deal from division rival Cleveland that will pay him $21 million including $8 million in guaranteed money. He'll bring a veteran presence to a young defensive line showing tremendous promise. This past year was Rucker's best in the NFL as he recorded 44 tackles and four sacks. Not coincidentally, it was also the healthiest season Rucker has enjoyed as a pro.
Fanene ended his seven year career in Cincinnati to join AFC champion New England. The Patriots gave him a three year deal totalling almost $12 million. Fanene rebounded after an injury-plagued 2010 to record 6.5 sacks, a career high.
Losing Rucker and Fanene now puts the Bengals in a corner of sorts with regard to their free agent strategy. It now becomes crucial that the team sign outstanding free agents DT Pat Sims and S Reggie Nelson simply to compensate for the attrition.
Additionally, DE Kendall Langford from Miami will visit Cincinnati today. Signing him would represent an upgrade in talent from either Rucker or Fanene. He also brings a much greater record of durability than either of the other two. He would immediately compete for a starting position at defensive end, but has the size to slide inside if necessary.
The Bengals also will receive visits from former Giants cornerback Aaron Ross, former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and the player who is believed to be their top free agent target, former Raiders running back Michael Bush.
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