- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Why are the Bengals not being more active? The Bengals would argue they have been.
Before re-signing cornerback Adam Jones on Thursday morning, Cincinnati had used $26.1 million of its cap room this year to retain eight of its own unrestricted free agents: defensive end Michael Johnson ($11.1 million cap number under franchise tag), defensive end Robert Geathers ($3.2 million cap number in 2013), punter Kevin Huber ($2.7 million), linebacker Rey Maualuga ($2.6 million), defensive end Wallace Gilberry ($2.5 million), kicker Mike Nugent ($1.6 million), long snapper Clark Harris ($1.3 million) and running back Cedric Peerman ($1.1 million). Plus, the Bengals put a $1.3 million tender on safety Jeromy Miles, a restricted free agent.
The Bengals are still looking to re-sign offensive tackle Andre Smith as well as cornerback Terence Newman. The team also can use the cap room to extend the contract of two Pro Bowl players, wide receiver A.J. Green (free agent in 2015) and defensive tackle Geno Atkins (free agent in 2014).
“Everyone wants you to go out and sign someone else’s player. How many guys have made an impact in their first year of signing?" Lewis said at the NFL owners meetings. "We are better served to continue with our guys and are not sitting there with a particular huge void and go forward with our players and keep getting them better as much as we can. Literally, had the timeline on some of these things gone different, we would have been able to do other things."
Lewis added, "The one thing that happens a little bit is waived guys fell into place right away. Secondly, one particularly big deal that isn’t quite done yet gets other deals gummed up. Then what the fans should understand is you have a second wave of guys that need to get done prior to the completion of this season or you are going to go through the same situation again, so hopefully these all fit.”
The biggest additions for the Bengals will come in the draft. Lewis thinks the team can pick up "three, likely four starting-caliber players" early in the draft.
The Bengals have three of the first 54 picks in the draft because of an extra second-rounder as a result of the Carson Palmer trade with the Raiders. With the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers losing more veterans, this is a prime opportunity for the Bengals to win their first division title since 2009.
The Cincinnati Bengals have the most salary-cap room in the NFL right now at $31.1 million. They are one of three teams who haven't signed a free agent from another team this offseason.