‘Shutdown Corner’ offseason TPS report: Cincinnati Bengals

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We continue in the AFC North and the Cincinnati Bengals.

2012 record: 10-6

What went wrong: The Bengals won 10 or more games for the third time under Marvin Lewis, but needed a red-hot second half of the season in order to do so. The Bengals opened the season 3-1, but had they avoided a four-game losing streak to close out the first half of their schedule, the may have won the AFC North and hosted a playoff game instead of having to make another unsuccessful postseason road trip to the Houston Texans. One area of concern was the Bengals' pass protection. In 2012, the Bengals allowed 46 sacks and had an "Adjusted Sack Rate" of 8.3 percent, according to Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, which ranked 28th in the NFL. Of those 46 sacks, 19 came in the final month of the regular season.

What went right: The Bengals won seven of their final eight games and reached the postseason for the second consecutive season, the first time the franchise appeared in back-to-back postseasons since 1981-82. In their second season in the NFL, quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green showed they are going to be a formidable aerial duo for years to come. Dalton set career-highs in completion percentage (62.3 percent), passing yards (3,669) and touchdowns (27), while Green exploded for 97 receptions, 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named to a second straight Pro Bowl team. From Nov. 18 through Dec. 31, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was as productive a running back as there was in the league, which helped the Bengals reach the playoffs. Though they'd prefer to not use him 76 times in a season, Kevin Huber had an outstanding season punting the football, ranking fourth in the NFL with a 42.0-yard net average.

The Bengals ranked sixth in total defense, eighth in scoring defense and Defensive tackle Geno Atkins went from being one of the most underrated players in the entire league to a second Pro Bowl and, more impressively, a first-team All-Pro selection. Another pleasant surprise was the play of outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a low risk ($1,000 guarantee) undrafted free agent signee who played in 82.96 percent of the defensive snaps and led the team with 127 tackles.

Coaching/front office changes: Running backs coach Jim Anderson retired and will be replaced by Hue Jackson, who coached aided the team's secondary and special teams efforts last season. The Bengals also added Adam Zimmer, son of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, as an assistant secondary coach.

Estimated 2013 cap space: $54.59 million

Possible cap casualties The Bengals are flush with cap space, but have an extensive list of free agents, a few of which – Michael Johnson, Wallace Gilberry, Rey Maualuga, Kevin Huber and Andre Smith, for example – they'd like to retain. The Bengals have the cap space to get them all signed, but may want to free up some cash to help those re-signings. Cornerback Jason Allen is entering the second of a two-year, $7.2 million contract and is scheduled to earn $3.2 million in 2013. Allen only played three defensive snaps last season, one for each $1 million in base salary he's slated to earn in 2013. Another short-term free agent that didn't pan out in 2012 was Jamaal Anderson, who earned $2.8 million and played just 60 defensive snaps before landing on injured reserve. Anderson is due $2.7 million in 2013 and could be let go to clear cash to re-sign Robert Geathers, Gilberry and Johnson.

Unrestricted free agents

Josh Brown, K
Nate Clements, CB
Chris Crocker, S
Robert Geathers, DE
Wallace Gilberry, DE
Bruce Gradkowski, QB
Clark Harris, LS
Thomas Howard, LB
Kevin Kuber, P
Michael Johnson, DE
Adam Jones, CB
Manny Lawson, LB
Brian Leonard, RB
Ray Maualuga, LB
Terence Newman, CB
Mike Nugent, K
Cedric Peerman, RB
Dennis Roland, OT
Bernard Scott, RB
Pat Sims, DT
Dan Skuta, LB
Andre Smith, OT
Brandon Tate, WR

Restricted free agents

Jeromy Miles, S
Richard Quinn, TE

RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:

• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection

Franchise Tag candidates: Quality pass-rushers are hard to find, so the Bengals should use whatever tools they have at their disposal to keep Michael Johnson, who posted 11.5 sacks in 2012, which was the 2009 third-round pick out of Georgia Tech's first full season in a starting role. In addition to possessing the ability to post double-digit sacks, the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Johnson is also stout against the run. Based on an estimated league-wide cap number just north of $121 million, the franchise tag for defensive ends is projected to be worth $11.002 million in 2013.

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