With Pro Bowl cornerback Adam Jones and starting safety George Iloka already in the fold, the Bengals made the second day of free agency a defensive hat trick with linebacker Vincent Rey signing what has been reported as a three-year, $11.5 million deal.
Iloka and Rey signed their deals Thursday and appeared at Paul Brown Stadium news conferences. Jones is expected to follow suit Friday.
But even though the Bengals lost their No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers who combined for nearly 100 catches and more than 1,200 yards, they appear to be done with their major deals. They figured they had about $15 million to spend in salary cap room and with deals for Jones ($8 million), Iloka ($6 million), Rey ($4.5 million), and backups Eric Winston and Brandon Tate, they're closer to $20 million.
But they'd still like to sign some of their own backups, such as defensive tackles Pat Sims and Brandon Thompson. There doesn't seem to be a financial fit for safety Reggie Nelson, off his first Pro Bowl season at age 32.
They'll also be very cautious in looking at unrestricted free agents in the hopes of getting high 2017 compensation draft picks for wide receiver Marvin Jones' move to Detroit and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu's move to Atlanta.
It appears the plan going into free agency had been to retain the two Joneses, one of the two starting safeties, and Rey before delving into the backups. They came within a whisker of pulling it off, but Marvin Jones stunned them hours before free agency started on Wednesday when he's believed to have left a similar deal on the table to go to Detroit for a five-year, $40 million contract.
After negotiating with Jones Tuesday night, club officials and coaches thought they had him in the fold with the same numbers, but apparently the deal breaker had been the Lions talking to him like a No. 1 receiver. Sanu had telegraphed his exit last month, but the money was still a surprise at $32.5 million for five years for a receiver averaging 448 yards per year with 11 career touchdowns.
Recent history has the Bengals not chasing veteran wideouts in free agency and while they may entertain the thought of signing one, the draft is going to remain the focus for replacing Jones and Sanu. It's believed the Bengals are going to look at some free agents that have been cut and maybe even some are going to be receivers, but not those that cut into the compensation formula.
Overthecap.com predicts the Bengals get a fourth-round pick for Jones and a fifth-round pick for Sanu in the 2017 draft. The most compensatory picks the Bengals could get is four.
Rey, a special teams co-captain and versatile chess piece who has started 21 games in the last two seasons, figures to start the first three games this year while WILL backer Vontaze Burfict serves an NFL suspension. Rey's 95 tackles led the team last season, when he started the first six games in place of the rehabbing Burfict.