Cincinnati was active in the days leading up to the deadline in keeping some of its own, such as kicker Mike Nugent, punter Kevin Huber, receiver Andrew Hawkins, running back Cedric Peerman, safety Jeromy Miles, linebacker Vincent Rey, long-snapper Clark Harris and defensive end Wallace Gilberry (per Rotoworld).
Now that the deadline has passed, things are slowly heating up for the team that entered free agency with the most cap space in the NFL.
Let's take a moment to break down some of the latest buzz around the Cincinnati Bengals now that free agency is officially underway.
Cincinnati Re-Ups One of Its Own Before the Deadline
The Bengals under Marvin Lewis have always been adamant in focusing on bringing back their own before looking at free agents on the market, so it should come as no surprise the team reached a deal with defensive end Robert Geathers as Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com reported:
Sources say #Bengals have come to terms with LE Robert Geathers— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) March 12, 2013
The deal with Geathers turned out to be for three years and a total of $9.5 million according to CBS' Jason La Canfora.
Bringing back Geathers is a smart move at that price for Cincinnati. Carlos Dunlap takes the majority of the snaps at that position, but Geathers is a key element to the defense on running downs, which are situations where Dunlap still struggles.
Geathers is a veteran presence now on track to be with the team for over 10 years.
Former Bengals Young and Old Visiting New Teams
With so many free agents to re-sign and only so much money to do so, it is only natural for some former Bengals to start seeking new homes.
First up is backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who will be visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers for its vacant backup spot according to Adam Schefter of ESPN on Twitter. Cincinnati is likely going to let Gradkowski walk as it looks to get younger at the backup position.
-- UPDATE --
Bruce Gradkowski has officially signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers per Adam Schefter on Twitter. Outside linebacker Manny Lawson, who was not expected back with the team, has agreed to a deal with the Buffalo Bills per Adam Caplan on Twitter.
-- END UPDATE --
The Bengals have expressed interest in bringing back Maualuga, potentially for a role at strong-side linebacker (per bengals.com). His starting gig in the middle is now occupied by Vontaze Burfict.
Cincinnati could still bring him back, but allowing him to visit other teams in need is not a great start.
Bengals on Track to Bring Back Andre Smith
The Bengals have been keeping things on the down-low with right tackle Andre Smith, who is now on the open market and free to sign wherever he wants.
As Sports Illustrated detailed recently, NFL teams are afraid of Smith despite the fact he was the best right tackle in football last season. His weight and injury issues, combined with the fact he did not put it all together until he was playing for a new contract, have allowed the Bengals to take negotiations slowly.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Bengals are now the favorites to land Smith on a long-term deal (h/t CincyJungle).
The specifics of a potential new deal are unknown, but the report of other teams being scared of him rings true. Cincinnati does not share those beliefs as the staff know him personally, but want to bring him back at a more reasonable price.
It appears Smith will be back with the Bengals for the long haul if the two sides can agree on a price, which is amazing news because it allows the team to focus on other areas early in the upcoming draft.
Running Back Frenzy in Cincinnati
It is no secret the Bengals are on the hunt for a new running back, and it appears the team will use free agency to at least explore options.
We have already touched on the team's interest in Steven Jackson, but the list has become much larger since then.
According to Michael Silver of Yahoo, the Bengals are just getting started when it comes to the position.
After the deadline Tuesday, running back Beanie Wells visited the team's facilities before continuing on to visit other teams. He is in the same mold as BenJarvus Green-Ellis, so it would appear the staff was just doing its due diligence.
Cincinnati has also expressed interest in Reggie Bush, but Silver reports the team has deemed him too expensive. That could change rather quickly if teams on the market for him such as the Detroit Lions drive his price down.
Silver also reports the team has an interest in former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, although he too is making the rounds with other franchises.
Finally, former Oakland Raiders running back Mike Goodson is set to visit Cincinnati on Wednesday. Goodson is a speed back who has made the most of his limited touches over the years and could play the role Bernard Scott did the past few seasons with the team.
All in all, Cincinnati is serious about filling the holes at running back and could do so sooner rather than later via free agency. If Jay Gruden can find a running back he is content with via free agency, it will allow the team to use early picks in the upcoming draft to upgrade other positions across the board.
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