Updated: 4-10-07, 3:40 p.m.
The 2007 NFL schedule is expected to be released Wednesday with the Bengals looking to add at least a Sunday night game to their menu that already includes their first ever prime-time opener on Sept. 10 in a Monday night game on ESPN against Baltimore.
While the Bengals wait, they peruse veteran free agents and prepare for the draft. According to an NFC source, Panthers strong safety Colin Branch visited the Bengals on Monday. Peter Schaffer, Branch's agent, couldn't be reached to comment if there is potential for a deal.
The 5-11, 205-pound Branch, 27, a fourth-round pick out of Stanford in 2003, had his best year in 2004 when he started and came up with a career-high three interceptions and 55 tackles. But he wasn't able to regain his starting job this past season after missing all of 2005 when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the preseason.
He did start four games and had an interception (giving him four for his career) along with 19 tackles. Branch was also a regular contributor on the Panthers special teams.
Rich Moran said that he's not certain if the Jets have decided yet to entertain negotiations for an offer sheet but he did say they're not the first club to express interest in Andrews. One club offered a fourth-rounder for him but the Bengals weren't interested.
"They did their homework on him, that's for sure, and flying him in was part of the process," Moran said.
Moran said he flew to Cincinnati from the West Coast back on Dec. 23 in an effort to get an extension for Andrews but they couldn't get it done.
"I don't think they're looking for one right now," Moran said. "The best way for a long-term deal now is probably if somebody signs him and they match it."
Now the Bengals have to be wondering if they might suddenly be entrusted with two second-round picks in the April 28-29 draft at Nos. 50 and 59.
The Boston Globe reported Tuesday that Andrews and Patriots cornerback Randall Gay, like Andrews a restricted free agent, are on visits to the Jets. Both have been tendered the $1.3 million one-year offer that would bring a second-rounder, and the Jets have two in this year's draft.
The Jets have until April 20 to reach an offer sheet with Andrews and the Bengals would have seven days to match it. Showing an unwillingness to spend $2 million per year on a backup defensive tackle, the Bengals last month opted not to match a four-year deal for restricted free agent Shaun Smith in Cleveland.
Although the Jets have plenty of money under the salary cap, it's hard to see the Jets spending a second-rounder on Gay as an oft-injured free-agent pickup out of the 2004 class. Andrews is a bit more of a mystery with just three NFL starts and 70 college snaps under his belt as he heads into his fourth season.
Now the questions start.
Would the Jets give Andrews starting money? Would they have to in order to get him out of Cincinnati? Citing a salary cap crunch formed, in part, by big deals for tackles Willie Anderson and Levi Jones, the Bengals haven't moved in free agency. Might they be faced with giving Andrews starter's money on a line where right now he's a backup, or losing a guy they've literally taught the game?
The Bengals took Andrews, a world-class track athlete, as a fourth-round project out of Mississippi in the '04 draft and have always believed he had Pro Bowl potential at 6-7, 350 pounds as either a tackle or guard.
Although he has been viewed as a potential successor to Anderson, the Bengals have used him frequently as a tight end and he made his first NFL starts in midseason last year at right guard in place of the injured Bobbie Williams. In that 3-0 stretch he was on hand for running back Rudi Johnson's 111-yard day in New Orleans and a 388-yard offensive day in Cleveland.
Andrews had also been viewed as a possible replacement for Eric Steinbach at left guard in a competition with Andrew Whitworth.
But if the Jets sign him and the Bengals don't match, Cincinnati would also get the Jets' first of two second-round picks at No. 59. Last year, picks 58-60 were fertile with cornerback Richard Marshall going to the Panthers, tackle Jeremy Trueblood going to Tampa Bay, and running back Maurice Drew going to Jacksonville.
But the Jets, who also have the 63rd pick, might also be wary of giving up a choice in a year they have only six. Yet they could also see Andrews as a potential replacement for right tackle Anthony Clement, a 31-year-old that could easily become a backup with a three-year $4 million deal. Plus, left guard Pete Kendall turns 34 in July.