Cincinnati Bengals Rumors & News

Top 8 Fits For Free Agent TE Gary Barnidge

Gary Barnidge was a relative no-name until the 2015 season, when — at age 30 — the 6’5″ tight end broke out for 79 receptions, 1,043 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. Each of those totals were career-highs for Barnidge, and his yardage figure was the eight-highest single-season total for a tight end since 2010. The 2016 campaign wasn’t quite as fruitful for Barnidge, but he still managed 55 catches for 612 yards, solid numbers for a tight end in a weak Browns offense.Gary Barnidge (vertical)

There are certainly question marks that could lead a team to not pursue Barnidge. Chief among them is probably his age, as Barnidge is set to enter his age-32 season. That could conceivably make him an injury risk, although he’s appeared in all 32 possible games over the past two years. Bardidge’s blocking prowess is also a concern, as he ranked 50th out of 63 qualified tight ends in run blocking efficiency last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Still, Barnidge offers excellent receiving ability and should come relatively cheap. It’s tough to see Barnidge topping the $5MM and $5.3MM annual salaries earned by fellow tight ends Vernon Davis and Jared Cook respectively, and he likely won’t command a multi-year deal. So which NFL teams could possibly employ Barnidge in his 10th pro season? Let’s take a look…

Atlanta Falcons

Austin Hooper, the Falcons’ third-round pick in 2016, posted 271 receiving yards during his rookie campaign. That lowly figure was somehow the second-highest yardage total by an Atlanta tight end since Tony Gonzalez retired at the end of the 2013 season. Yes, the Falcons’ offense was the best in the NFL by a wide margin last year, but the unit could continue its dominance by adding another element at tight end. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has never worked with an elite tight end (not counting his one-game stint as O.J. Howard‘s OC at Alabama, Sarkisian’s best TE pupil was Austin Seferian-Jenkins), so it’s unclear if he can develop young options such as Hooper and 2017 fifth-rounder Eric Saubert. A veteran such as Barnidge would allow those youthful players to grow by lessening their responsibilities, at least for the upcoming season.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills were the first stop on Barnidge’s free agent tour following his release by the Browns, so Buffalo clearly has some level of interest. Charles Clay is currently atop the Bills’ tight end depth chart, but he hasn’t been worth the five-year, $38MM deal Buffalo gave him prior to the 2015 season. Despite being the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league, Clay has finished just 12th in approximate value since joining the Bills. Buffalo is stuck with him through at least 2018, as a 2016 contract restructure makes release unpalatable. Clay is a much better run blocker than Barnidge, so the latter would be able to play as a move tight end in the Bills’ offense. Given that Buffalo is fielding one of the league’s worst wide receiving groups, the club needs all the weapons it can get.

Carolina Panthers

After visiting with the Bills, Barnidge indicated he might take a meeting with the Panthers, and although it’s unclear if that visit ever took place, it stands to reason Carolina is still eyeing a tight end addition. Greg Olsen, clearly, is the No. 1 option for the Panthers, but the team’s depth at the position is shockingly sparse. Linked to a number of tight ends during the predraft process, Carolina ultimately stood pat, leaving only Ed Dickson and Chris Manhertz behind Olsen. Dickson, for his part, is essentially a non-factor in the receiving game and isn’t a great blocker — the Panthers could release him with a minimal dead cap charge. Barnidge spent the first four years of his career in Carolina, and a homecoming would make a lot of sense.

Cincinnati Bengals

Unquestionably one of the league’s more talented tight ends when healthy, Tyler Eifert just can’t seem to stay on the field. He’s never appeared in all 16 games, and has missed more than eight games in two of the past three seasons. Eifert’s 52-reception, 13-touchdown 2015 campaign showed him at his best, but he simply can’t be relied on. And the Bengals’ backup options are lackluster, as well, as C.J. Uzomah (25 catches, 234 yards) and Tyler Kroft (10, 92) struggled when asked to fill in for Eifert last season. Cincinnati has already bolstered its offense this offseason by adding wide receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon, and Barnidge would give the club another target and (much-needed) depth.

Denver Broncos

Denver has reached out to Barnidge in recent days, and the Broncos have a level of familiarity with Barnidge given that many of their coaches — notably offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and tight ends coach Jeff Davidson — worked with Barnidge in Carolina. While the tight end position isn’t quite the integral position in McCoy’s offense that it was in former head coach Gary Kubiak‘s, Denver still needs an infusion of talent at the position. The selection Jake Butt, of course, marked the initial step in the Broncos’ tight end revamp, but the former Michigan Wolverine may not be ready for Week 1 as he recovers from a torn ACL. Barnidge would instantly become Denver’s No. 1 tight end if signed, although head coach Vance Joseph said he’s currently pleased with the Broncos’ tight end group, tweets Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Like the Panthers, the Jaguars may try to set up a visit with Barnidge, and Barnidge confirmed that he has in fact heard from the Jacksonville staff. The Jaguars parted ways with free agent bust Julius Thomas this offseason, shipping him to Miami for a late-round pick, but the club’s only addition at the position was the signing of former Raider Mychal Rivera, who hasn’t topped 300 yards receiving since 2014. Incumbent Marcedes Lewis continues to strike new deals with the Jaguars (the latest a three-year, $12MM pact) despite last being productive at the turn of the decade, so Barnidge would represent an immediate upgrade for quarterback Blake Bortles & Co.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings may have landed a draft steal in Virginia Tech Bucky Hodges, who was projected to come off the board on Day 2 but lasted until the sixth round. Still, Hodges is more an oversized wideout than a typical tight end, as Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote in Hodges’ predraft profile. No. 1 tight end Kyle Rudolph posted the best season of his career in 2016, as he hauled in 83 passes for 840 yards, so Barnidge would clearly be the No. 2 in Minnesota. Given quarterback Sam Bradford‘s proclivity for the short passing game, adding another tight end who can play over the middle wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Pittsburgh Steelers

After releasing Ladarius Green last week, the Steelers appear set to roll with Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, and TE/FB David Johnson at tight end for the 2017 season. Pittsburgh didn’t address the position during the draft, which could mean the club is content with its current options. James, specifically, posted a nice season last year (39 receptions, 338 yards), but it’s hard to argue that he’s true No. 1 tight end for a contending team. Clearly, with Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and (hopefully) Martavis Bryant in the fold, the Steelers don’t exactly need a dynamic weapon at tight end, but Barnidge would give the Steelers a veteran option for at least one year.

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Latest On Giovani Bernard

  • Bengals running back Giovani Bernard is expected to be a limited participant at OTAs, according to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Bernard suffered a torn ACL in November and is still on the mend. In ten games last year, Bernard ran for 337 yards off of 91 carries and added 39 receptions for 336 yards.

Bengals Sign Josh Malone

  • The Bengals announced that they’ve signed signed fourth-round wide receiver Josh Malone. Malone, a Tennessee product, was the second pass-catcher selected by Cincinnati in the draft, following No. 9 overall pick John Ross. While Ross figures to play a large role during his rookie campaign (and perhaps even immediately serve as a starter), Malone will begin the 2017 campaign further down the depth chart. A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Ross, and Tyler Boyd all figure to see ample playing time, so Malone will compete with Cody Core, Alex Erickson, and Jake Kumerow for snaps.

Bengals CB Adam Jones Enters Guilty Plea

On Tuesday, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones pleaded guilty to obstructing official business in an incident that took place in early January. Meanwhile, the judge dismissed more serious charges against the player formerly known as Pacman, meaning that he will avoid serious jail time. Adam Jones

[RELATED: Bengals Sign First-Round Pick John Ross]

I truly apologize for what I did, my actions. I’m trying to get better every day,” Jones said (Twitter link via Terry Helmer of WCPO).

Initially, Jones was charged with three misdemeanors and a felony after a late-night dustup. The cornerback allegedly assaulted a man by “pushing and poking” him in the eye. Then, he refused to stop when ordered to and he refused to enter the cop car as he kicked and head-butted officers. Then, when he arrived at jail, he allegedly spit on a nurse, which landed him the felony charge of “harassment of a member of the medical staff in the justice center with a bodily substance.” Despite all of that, Jones was sentenced only to time served, which amounted to two days in jail.

Jones is pretty much in the clear when it comes to legal ramifications, but it seems likely that he will face discipline from the league office. Bengals GM Mike Brown indicated back in March that the team will stand by the embattled veteran.

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Draft Pick Signings: 5/15/17

Here are today’s draft pick signings, with teams continuing to work on their Day 3 additions.

  • The Bengals added five draft choices on Monday — including five of their final six picks in an 11-selection draft. Cincinnati reached agreements with fourth-round defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow (Michigan), fifth-round kicker Jake Elliott (Memphis), sixth-round linebacker Jordan Evans (Oklahoma), sixth-round safety Brandon Wilson (Houston) and seventh-round tight end Mason Schreck (Buffalo). This large draft contingent will bring about heavy roster competition, with 11 roster spots likely unavailable. Elliott was one of three kickers taken in the draft, but the other two came off the board in the seventh round. He and Randy Bullock figure to battle for a job.
  • Fourth-round safety Eddie Jackson signed his Bears deal. The Alabama product will step into a safety corps that includes recently signed Quintin Demps and two-year starter Adrian Amos.
  • Continuing the string of fourth-round signings, the Colts and tackle Zach Banner (USC) agreed to terms. Banner could provide depth or possibly compete for a starting spot on the right side of Indianapolis’ offensive line, which is less settled than the left side. The Colts did not use another pick on a blocker after having four offensive linemen from their 2016 draft class on the roster.

John Ross Contract Details

  • The Bengals have agreed to pay first-round wide receiver John Ross his entire 2017 base salary even if he lands on the non-football injury list, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Though Ross suffered injuries (including a torn labrum) while playing football, he wasn’t yet in the NFL when those issues cropped, so the NFI list is still a viable option. Clubs aren’t required to pay players on NFI, but will typically negotiate some sort of compensation if a unique situation arises, and that’s especially true if the player was injured upon arrival in the NFL. Cincinnati inked Ross to a four-year deal worth $17.116MM earlier this week.

Bengals Sign John Ross

The Bengals have signed first-round pick (No. 9 overall) John Ross and fourth-round pick (No. 116 overall) Carl Lawson to their rookie contracts, per Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter).

Apr 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Huskies receiver John Ross poses after being selected as the number 9 overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ross, of course, had a breakout final season at Washington (81 catches for 1,150 yards and a whopping 17 receiving TDs), and he has game-breaking speed, which will be an excellent complement to A.J. Green in Cincinnati. The concern, of course, is that the diminutive wideout has major medical red flags, which caused some teams to drop him on their boards or remove him from their boards entirely. Ross tore his ACL and missed the 2015 collegiate campaign and also underwent labrum surgery after the combine, and we heard last week that some clubs only view him as a one contract player and not as a long-term investment.

If he stays healthy, his explosiveness could be a boon to the Bengals both on the offensive side of the ball and in the return game. He will be in line for a four-year deal worth roughly $17MM and a $10.5MM signing bonus.

Lawson, meanwhile, was the first of three fourth-round selections the Bengals made, and he will earn roughly $3MM over the life of his four-year pact. The Auburn product amassed 9.5 sacks in his final collegiate season, and Cincinnati plans to utilize his pass-rushing skills from the outside linebacker position even though he lined up as a defensive end in college.

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Mike Brown On Joe Mixon

The Bengals recently made Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon the No. 48 overall pick of the 2017 draft, a move that predictably sparked a great deal of conversation and controversy. Mixon’s assault of a female Oklahoma student several years ago caused a number of teams to remove him from their draft boards completely — a recent report indicated that only four clubs said they would consider drafting Mixon — and any team that did select him knew it would have to contend with significant public backlash.

Joe Mixon (vertical)

Cincinnati, no stranger to taking a chance on players with character concerns, decided to take the plunge in the second round of the draft. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are on the Bengals’ roster, but neither back reached the 4.0 yards-per-carry mark last season, Hill will be a free agent next offseason, and Bernard is coming off a serious injury, having torn his ACL in November. So Mixon, who was perhaps the most talented back in this year’s class, made sense from an on-field need and value perspective.

Nonetheless, the off-field concerns needed to be addressed, and Bengals owner and president Mike Brown wrote a letter to the team’s fanbase in an attempt to do that. Here are the highlights (courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer):

On the incident itself:

“Joe’s regrettable deed was that he struck a young woman, another student, shortly after arriving on campus in Norman, Oklahoma, three years ago. Joe and this young woman recently met in person, came to terms with the incident, and they agreed to resolve their differences so they could move forward with their lives.”

On Mixon’s response to the incident:

“Since the incident three years ago, Joe was suspended by the football team, pleaded guilty in court, and accepted the consequences of his actions. He later went on to become a good citizen in Norman, a popular teammate, a player respected by his coaches, and one of the most talented players in college football.”

On why the team selected Mixon:

“[H]e is a rare football talent, and his conduct over the past three years leads us to believe he can help us win football games and also become a productive member of this community.”

On Mixon’s future with the club:

“In making our decision, we took a risk. In this case, the risk has an upside as well as a downside. We believe Joe has put this behind him and that he can turn into the player and community member that creates a plus for Cincinnati. We are going to do everything in our power to make this happen. Our hope is that time will prove that this opportunity is deserved, and perhaps – if given a chance – Joe can write a chapter in Cincinnati sports history that both he and Cincinnati can be proud of.”

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Bengals Sign 13 Undrafted Rookies

The Bengals have signed a baker’s dozen of undrafted free agents:

Nickerson is the son of Hardy Nickerson Sr., a former Pro Bowl linebacker and NFL coach. The elder Nickerson currently serves as Illinois’ defensive coordinator and that allowed him to coach his son towards the end of his collegiate career. Nickerson Jr. has been lauded for his work ethic, but some scouts question whether he can stick at the next level.

He may get a legacy grade from some teams based on his tackle production and his bloodlines, but I’m struggling to find consistent tape of him where he looks like an NFL linebacker,” a regional scout for an NFC team told NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.

The Bengals already have five running backs under contract, including rookie Joe Mixon, so tailbacks Jarveon Williams and Stanley Williams may be facing an uphill battle as they try to make the final cut.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

John Ross A "One Contract" Player?

The Bengals selected Washington wide receiver John Ross with the ninth overall pick last Thursday, but some clubs didn’t view Ross as a worthwhile long-term investment, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. “We looked at him as a one-contract player,” one front office told La Canfora. “Our doctors had serious reservations about his longevity at this level.” Ross tore his ACL and missed the 2015 collegiate campaign, and also underwent labrum surgery after the combine. If healthy, Ross and his 4.22-second speed should add a new dynamic to Cincinnati’s offense.