North Notes: Bengals, Griffin, Bears

Watching most of their UFAs either defect or still reside in free agency, the Bengals allowed their latest longtime starter who fled Cincinnati to do so without an effort to keep him. The Bengals did not pursue Andre Smith, Geoff Hobson of reports, and the eighth-year right tackle signed with the Vikings.

Smith landed in Minnesota on a one-year, $3.5MM deal, one that could be deemed as a value-reestablishing accord. The Bengals, though, prepared for Smith’s departure a year in advance in drafting tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first two rounds last year. Although, Fisher moved to H-back toward the end of last season.

Longtime secondary cogs Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall remain unsigned, while the Bengals let Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu join higher-bidding teams.

Here’s some more on the Bengals, along with other North-division franchises.

  • Former Bengals OC Jay Gruden expects Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard to command hefty contracts, per Hobson. “You have to tip your hat to that offensive scheme over there and the way Andy [Dalton] is throwing the ball around,” Gruden said. “That’s what that offense is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to get people touches, just not A.J. [Green]. Marvin and Mo got big contracts. A.J. has already established himself. Eifert will get a big deal. Giovani will get a great deal.” Gruden, who watched former auxiliary wideout Andrew Hawkins attract a solid contract from the Browns a few years ago, doesn’t anticipate a big drop-off from the Bengals’ offense after Sanu and Jones left. “[The Bengals] will be fine,” Gruden said. “Andy will throw it to the open guy and he’ll make someone else a couple of million dollars.”
  • While noting the Browns‘ meeting with Robert Griffin III went well, Jackson indirectly seemed to intimate a prospective interest in Colin Kaepernick, telling’s Steve Wyche (via Marc Sessler) “I can’t comment on players on other teams. But it is where it is and eventually I think all those things will show itself.” Kaepernick should be one of the chief topics of this week’s owners’ meetings, with the Browns, Broncos and Jets having indicated some interest over the past couple of weeks. Jackson went on to call RG3 a “tremendous talent.” Griffin’s now visited the Jets and Browns. The Browns remain interested in Griffin, a source informed Mary Kay Cabot of Cabot notes the prospect of a Griffin-Browns union becoming reality would make the most sense this week, with the Cleveland brass in Boca Raton, Fla., for the meetings.
  • Kyle Long would play right guard for the Bears with the personnel that’s presently on the roster, John Fox told media (including Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune) from the spring meetings. A two-time Pro Bowl guard who earned an additional Pro Bowl nod upon being moved to right tackle in 2015, Long moving back there would stem from the Bears adding Bobby Massie in free agency. Long’s performance appeared to dip last season, however, with Pro Football Focus ranking him as its 37th-best tackle. The Bears trotted out Charles Leno at left tackle last season.
  • Fox said the Bears weren’t done in free agency, and Biggs hears from a source the team is looking to add a tight end this week. After keeping Zach Miller and trading Martellus Bennett, the Bears have Rob Housler under contract as well. Biggs points out Jared Cook could be a fit after playing for new OC Dowell Loggains with the Titans. The Bears haven’t allocated much money to the position, with Miller receiving a two-year, $6MM deal.
  • Fox believes both Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman can function as nickel linebackers for them, and Ryan Grigson concurs, telling media (including John Mullin of Freeman can “do it all” as a three-down linebacker. Trevathan logged 513 snaps against the pass last season compared to Freeman’s 449, although Freeman would have likely matched or surpassed his new linebacking mate’s 2015 figure had he played more than 13 games.
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