Bengals' free agents may flee in 2016

Posted at 12:57 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 12:57:49-05

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals already have a different look as they try to dig out of their latest playoff flop, with a new offensive coordinator and four different position coaches. In a few weeks, free agency will start reshaping the roster.

The Bengals have spent a lot of money keeping the core of the team together during its five-year run of playoff appearances, but there's likely to be significant changes in this offseason.

Among the potential free agents are right tackle Andre Smith, safeties Reggie Nelson and George Iloka, cornerbacks Leon Hall and Adam "Pacman" Jones, defensive end Wallace Gilberry, and receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

The AFC North champions knew that last season would be their final one with their team intact, which is why they put so much emphasis on winning a playoff game and getting deep into the postseason. Their last-minute meltdown for an 18-16 loss to Pittsburgh extended the streak of postseason futility to 25 years.


Coach Marvin Lewis is coming back for his 14th season, even though his 0-7 mark in playoff games is the worst in NFL history.

The Bengals have lost in the opening round for five consecutive seasons — no other NFL team has done it more than three times in a row.

Lewis' staff looks a lot different already.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson left for the head coaching job in Cleveland. Jackson brought his creativity to the offense and helped Andy Dalton take an important step in his development last season. Dalton had the NFL's top passer rating when he broke his right thumb on Dec. 13, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.

The Bengals promoted quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, giving them their third different offensive coordinator in four years. Jackson was promoted after Jay Gruden took the head coaching job in Washington.

Zampese has been with the Bengals for 13 years as the quarterbacks coach, working with Carson Palmer as well as Dalton. He was the offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona in 1995, but hasn't held the position in the NFL, so the first season will be a learning experience.

"The scope of what you're handling is different," Zampese said. "The way you deliver the message is different. Now you're in a position to be leading the whole group, not just the group in your (position) room."

Lewis wanted continuity in the offense with Dalton entering his sixth season. Dalton is expected to fully recover from the broken thumb in time to do all of the offseason work.

"It helps Andy and continues with the development of our QBs and their role in the offense," Lewis said. "They won't have to re-learn, change, or teach somebody what we're doing. That way, we continue to grow and expand."

Bill Lazor, who was the offensive coordinator in Miami from 2014 until last Nov. 30, was hired as the quarterbacks coach.

The Bengals also will have new coaches for the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs in Paul Guenther's third season as coordinator.

Defensive backs coach Vance Joseph was hired by the Dolphins as defensive coordinator, and he brought along linebackers coach Matt Burke. Line coach Jay Hayes went to Tampa Bay after 13 seasons with the Bengals.

The Bengals filled two of the openings by bringing back Kevin Coyle for the defensive backs and Jacob Burney for the line. Coyle was on Cincinnati's defensive staff from 2001-11 before leaving to become the coordinator in Miami. Burney spent the past five seasons with the Redskins.

Lewis likes to know how coaches will react during a season, which figured into the decisions to promote Zampese and bring back Coyle.

"Well, it's important," Lewis said. "Until you're in a foxhole with a guy, you can observe from afar but you don't really know."