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As free agency begins, former Bengals coaches trying to poach players

Former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, now Cleveland's head coach, understands how some of Cincinnati's unrestricted free agents, like receiver Marvin Jones, can help the Browns. Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI -- In the NFL, familiarity can breed success.

Think about what it's like for the rest of us. When it comes to switching jobs, those of us in the non-NFL workforce would rather move to a place where the concepts and people are common to what we've previously known. Throw us into a completely foreign working environment, and there's a longer period of adjustment.

As free agency formally begins Wednesday, it's important to keep that in mind.

The Cincinnati Bengals have been been bracing for the possibility that some of their most important unrestricted free agents might soon sign with teams coached by men the they used to employ.

The possibility for such poaching has already begun. Pending Bengals free agents George Iloka, Marvin Jones, Reggie Nelson, Vincent Rey and Adam Jones have already been tied to teams that have former Bengals assistants in high-ranking spots on their coaching staffs. Iloka, Nelson, Rey and Adam Jones are reportedly on the Minnesota Vikings' radar (and Miami Dolphins in Adam Jones' case), and the Cleveland Browns are reportedly interested in Marvin Jones.

All three of those teams have former Bengals coaches as either head coaches or coordinators.

Three weeks ago, we looked at the possibility the Bengals' then-14 unrestricted free agents would have suitors in Minnesota, Miami and Cleveland (and don't forget Washington, where former Bengals assistant Jay Gruden is head coach).

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was Cincinnati's defensive coordinator from 2008-13, when he established a tight relationship with Nelson, Iloka, Rey and Adam Jones. He drafted Iloka and Rey, helped trade for Nelson, and signed off on signing a once-cut Adam Jones; a free-agency decision that has paid off the past six seasons. Like many who played for Zimmer, each of the four developed a strong loyalty and affinity for the coach. Last March, former Bengals corner Terence Newman signed with Zimmer's Vikings in free agency.

In Miami is former Bengals co-defensive backs coach Vance Joseph. Now the Dolphins' defensive coordinator, Joseph was closest in Cincinnati to Adam Jones. The cornerback often credited Joseph with simplifying the way he played the position. Joseph used tendencies, formations and down-and-distance to get Adam Jones to eliminate various receivers' routes, giving him a better idea of where his opponent might be going on a given play.

First-year Browns head coach Hue Jackson was the Bengals' offensive coordinator the past two seasons. The year before that, he coached their running backs. The year before that, he was their defensive backs coach, drawing a tight bond with Adam Jones. In the case of Marvin Jones, Jackson's new team is in need of receivers, and he knows exactly what the wideout can do. It helps Cleveland having former Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins on the Browns' roster, too. He's already made a pitch to Marvin Jones and fellow Bengals free agent Mohamed Sanu about potentially calling Cleveland home.