Marvin Lewis speaks Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
INDIANAPOLIS — With 23 players poised to hit free agency March 12, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is looking at getting many of them back in order to keep intact the core of back-to-back playoff teams.
"Let's keep betting on our guys. We've got to bet on them. Bet on our process," Lewis said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "We've trained these guys. We've grown them from the ground up."
Lewis said the Bengals don't want to use their franchise tag in free agency, "but we will if have to" after they lined up 17 home-grown starters at the Wild Card loss in Houston.
Also Thursday, Lewis said:
» All positions are open to be drafted except starting quarterback.
» The center position, a battle between veteran Kyle Cook and second-year man Trevor Robinson, is open for competition. But Lewis also said "pretty much" every spot is up for grabs except the one occupied by two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.
"Even me," Lewis said.
» Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, one of the 23, could return. The Bengals are expected to move rookie standout Vontaze Burfict from WILL to middle backer, but Lewis would only say, "He can play anywhere he wants."
» Quarterback Andy Dalton "is our guy" who has to improve in his third season.
"I thought Andy did a good for us. When he holds that trophy, he would have done a great job and that's we're looking forward to," Lewis said. "Until he gets there, he'll take that criticism. He's a great guy. He's our guy. He works hard at it, it means a lot to him. And he'll do nothing but continue to play more productively. We have to keep putting people around him and put them in the right spot to allow him to do his job and not have the worry of them not being where they belong."
» Lewis indicated the Bengals are going to meet Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti T'eo for a 15-minute interview.