Updated: 3-14-13, 10:20 a.m.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis indicated Wednesday his club would like to get a deal with right tackle Andre Smith within the week and he thinks now is a good time since three major tackles have signed in free agency.
"Our hope is to come out of this next four, five days to go into the draft and to be able to draft the best players available for us," Lewis said after scouting the University of Cincinnati's pro day. "We're working hard to get Andre and a couple of deals are done now, and that ought to make things easy."
The Bengals have also prioritized another Dogra client, cornerback Terence Newman, and those two signings would seemingly open up the 21st pick of the first round to any position or player. A Thursday report from the West Coast said Newman is taking a free-agent visit to the Raiders.
Meanwhile, Lewis was unfazed Wednesday that the Bengals lost three backup players that didn't fit into their long-term future: Defensive tackle Pat Sims (Oakland), SAM backer Manny Lawson (Buffalo), and quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (Pittsburgh).
Gradkowski won two games coming off the bench in two years while Lawson played 38 percent of the snaps on mainly first and second down in the last of his two seasons here.
"That's a good thing for us," Lewis said. "Nothing has changed. I'm happy for Manny and that's a great thing for him. Our plans are set the way they are set."
Sims's deal came after Lewis spoke and it's believed Cincinnati's one-year offer was comparable to the one-year deal Sims took in Oakland. Sims, a third-roujnd pick in 2008, had a running battle with the coaches over his conditioning and he landed in Lewis's doghouse last year when he got hurt as the Bengals prepped for training camp. But when he came off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list in November, he was a big factor in the Bengals 7-1 finish.
His teammates, in fact, called the 330-pound Sims "The X-Factor" against the run when he played primarily on first and second downs. In the 13 games he missed the past two years, the Bengals allowed 4.5 yards per rush. In the 19 games Sims played, they allowed 3.6. But they drafted tackles Devon Still and Brandon Thompson in the second and third rounds, respectively, last year, guys that didn't play after Sims became active. But with a high-priced defensive line and two rookies, there turned out to be only so much room.
Plus, Sims has a better shot at starting for a retooling defense that finished 18th against the run and overall.
Also middle linebacker Rey Maualuga visited Arizona on Wednesday and left without a deal, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. He also reported that Vikings inside backer Jasper Brinkley is visiting the Cardinals on Thursday.
It's believed the Bengals were still interested in bringing Maualuga back. Yet it is very unlikely as a middle linebacker because of one Vontaze Burfict, the rookie college free agent who played so well at his new position of WILL, where he made 174 tackles in 14 starts and showed the instincts of a natural middle backer.
Citing a Yahoo! Sports report, ESPN AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley reported that Burfict "earned a league-best $299,465 in the NFL's performance-based pay program (on top of his $390,000 salary)...It was almost $5,000 more than anyone else...The performance-based pay program rewards players who finish with high playing time and low cap numbers."
Raiders running back Mike Goodson visited Cincinnati on Wednesday. The profile of the 6-0, 210-pound Goodson, heading into his fifth season with 160 career carries and 95 kick returns, fits more of a third-down type of back.
But the Bengals are centering the next few days around Smith and Newman.
According to published reports, Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt re-signed at $6.2 million per year, right tackle Gosder Cherilus made the jump from the Lions to the Colts, for a five-year, $34.5 million contract, and left tackle Jermon Bushrod moved from the Saints to the Bears for about a $7 million average. Ben Dogra, Smith's agent, also represents the top-ranked left tackle on the market, Miami's Jake Long, and he visited St. Louis on Wednesday. A deal there would potentially put Smith on deck.
Lewis disputed the notion that the defending AFC North and Super Bowl champ Ravens took a step back Tuesday on the first day of the new year with the departures of outside linebacker Paul Kruger and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe via free agency and the trade of Anquan Boldin to the 49ers.
"They didn't have a rough day. They had what they expected. Their plan was already in place," Lewis said, "What they expected to happen, happened. They drafted a year ago to allow these things to happen and this is what they do. They're ahead of schedule, it is not a one-year cycle unless you get an injury to create a void."
Each year the Bengals take heat for not being active early in free agency (despite the failures of Antwan Odom, Antonio Bryant and Laveranues Coles) and each year Lewis explains why the Bengals are cautious about big deals with free agents.
"It's not a one-year process. You have to look at the next three-four years. That's why you saw guys getting released over the last week or two," Lewis said. "Some teams look at this as a one-two year deal and then they get unrealistic and have to release the player because they had too much of a percentage of cap room.
"It's important to develop our own guys unless there is a void. Develop them and get better. Nothing has changed where they are."
The Bengals had talked to the representatives of running back Reggie Bush before he landed, but it appeared to be a role issue rather than a money issue because he's going to be a full-time back in Detroit.