Barring a surprise signing, the end of this week looks to be the end of the Bengals’ first phase of free agency with all eyes now turning to April 25.
That’s a big day for the Zac Taylor regime. It’s the third and last day of an early voluntary minicamp granted to the teams of new head coaches and it’s also the first round of the NFL Draft. That 11th pick now appears to have the Paul Brown Stadium stage all to himself with Friday afternoon’s reports that they’ve agreed with back-up Giants defensive lineman Kerry Wynn.
As Taylor heads to his first NFL annual meeting this weekend in Phoenix, that puts the Bengals free-agent count at nine, headlined by re-signing six of their own. Wynn is one of three unrestricted free agents from elsewhere they signed and the second one that played last season with new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo in New York.
The one-year deals for Wynn and cornerback Darqueze Dennard don’t figure to be announced by the club until next week. Thursday’s release of linebacker Vontaze Burfict (freeing up an estimated $5 million) may have helped them fit in those deals under the estimated $20 million they allotted for new salary cap hits this year. No doubt they’ll re-visit free agency after the draft and they’ve got about an $8 million rollover to work with when it comes to extensions of veterans. Read A.J. Green.
Dennard may be announced at the end of the activity, but it’s not going by importance because he always was one of their top internal candidates to retain. Right there with tight end Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah and right tackle Bobby Hart. When they also re-signed middle linebacker Preston Brown, it was a clean sweep for the young free-agents they hoped to keep. Plus, they're hoping third-year nose tackle Josh Tupou can jump-start his career with the new staff.
Knowing they would lose tackles Cedric Ogbuehi (Jacksonville) and Jake Fisher (Buffalo) to low-level deals in free agency, they figured they had little chance of getting some kind of meaningful compensation so they went for unrestricted free agents earmarked to do more than just fill some holes. Bills right guard John Miller is projected as a starter. Giants cornerback B.W. Webb was signed when Dennard wasn’t because of his work under Anarumo playing both the slot and the outside. Wynn, with 4.5 sacks in five seasons with the Giants, is seen as an end that can also play inside as well as a solid team guy that has made an impact on special teams.
Anarumo coached the Giants secondary last season, but he saw what Wynn could mean for a team when the Giants knocked off the Texans last season. Mike Eisen of Giants.com caught New York head Coach Pat Shurmur expounding on it a day later.
“I thought Kerry was outstanding,” Shurmur said. “He had five tackles, he had one special teams tackle, he had two assists, he forced a fumble, he had a pass breakup, one quarterback hit, and one quarterback pressure … Kerry is long, he’s kind of a relentless player, he’s tough, he’s all the things you’re looking for – he’s tough, he cares, he works, and he finds a way to make plays. That certainly was an outstanding performance on his part.”
Anarumo’s players didn’t miss his intangibles, either, and it sounds like he’s the kind of guy Taylor is looking for when it comes to focus.
“He’s a quiet guy, stays out of the way, but does his job and does his job excellent,” former Giants safety Landon Collins told Eisen. “He’s going to know every detail he has to go into the game with and play it 100 percent.”