After landing three starters and a veteran third cornerback, the Bengals shifted their free-agency focus Friday with deals aimed at shoring up depth and opening up next month's NFL Draft.
They announced the re-signing of a pair of first-off-the-bench backups in cornerback Adam Jones and tackle Anthony Collins, as well as the addition of Broncos defensive end Derrick Harvey, and indications were they are pursuing re-signing defensive tackle Pat Sims. Also Friday, the Bengals agreed to terms with Colts defensive end Jamaal Anderson, the eighth pick of the Falcons in 2007 who visited last week after his career-high three-sack season in Indianapolis. An announcement of the deal could come Saturday.
With the NFL meetings set for next week in Palm Beach, Fla., the Bengals may be announcing another signing over the weekend in what would amount to about $20 million counting against the 2012 salary cap since free agency opened 10 days ago.
Jamison Hensley, who blankets the AFC North for ESPN.com, says the Bengals are the team in the division that's improved the most since March 13 "and it's not even close."
None of the teams have splashed, he says, but calls the re-signing of safety Reggie Nelson the best move in the division and the signing of Patriots running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis the splashiest import in the division.
Collins is one of those quietly big signings. He's bailed out the Bengals at both left and right tackle as a backup and has been a part of big wins. With new starting left guard Travellle Wharton bringing a couple of seasons at left tackle and Collins a starter at 12 games at right the past three seasons, the Bengals are covered on the perimeter.
The 6-5, 252-pound Harvey is one of the two former top 10 picks the Bengals were looking to add to a defensive line rotation that took a hit last week with the departure of backups Frostee Rucker and Jon Fanene.
With the Bengals looking at ends, it's believed they are pursuing Sims, a solid rotation player against the run. When Sims missed the last six games with an ankle injury last season, their run defense took a hit: about 140 yards per game. There were other reasons, but Sims would give them that big body in there.
Harvey, 25, is working on his third team. After the Jaguars traded up ahead of the Bengals to take him with the eighth pick of the 2008 draft, he had just eight sacks in three seasons before moving to Denver last season, where he had no sacks in 92 snaps.
The Bengals liked Harvey coming out of Florida and there's still some speculation that if the Jags hadn't traded up that the Bengals would have been choosing between Harvey and the guy they ended up taking ninth, linebacker Keith Rivers.
The Bengals continued to get good reviews over what they've done the past 10 days from profootballfocus.com when on Friday they called Anderson a"direct replacement for the loss of their run stuffing specialist, Frostee Rucker. ... He can do a job as a run defender and is an interesting player rushing inside from defensive tackle in sub-packages."
Fanene's biggest asset was his ability to slide from end into tackle and form a potent 1-2 pass-rush push inside with Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins. The Bengals like how long Anderson is (6-6, 270 pounds) and maybe he can cause problems for shorter guards like Antwan Odom did.
According to profootballfocus.com, of Anderson's 419 snaps in Indy last season, the majority (233) were on runs, but on his 185 pass-rush snaps he did get those three sacks and seven quarterback pressures. Rucker rushed 213 times out of his 478 snaps along with his four sacks the Web site credited him with five quarterback pressures. Fanene had six sacks and 15 pressures of his 486 snaps, 331 on the pass rush.
Now Harvey and Anderson, 26, are intriguing bookends, perhaps next in line of the remarkable rehab run head coach Marvin Lewis has pulled off in leading the Bengals to two postseason berths in the past three seasons. Key parts of those teams have been several recycled starters who revived themselves in Cincinnati.
Running back Cedric Benson is the prime example, but there are also kicker Mike Nugent, safeties Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker, and cornerback Adam Jones.
By wrapping up some depth the Bengals believe they go into the draft pretty flexible and that they won't be forced to reach for a need.