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NFL Cincinnati Bengals

5 Free Agents the Cincinnati Bengals Should Re-Sign This Offseason

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5 Free Agents the Bengals Must Re-Sign This Offseason

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Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals need to re-sign as many defensive players as they can heading into the 2014 season.

Their defense was one of the best in the NFL and is the reason why they got to the playoffs in 2013. They need to try and keep most of their top defensive players if they want to take another shot at the playoffs next season. Also, if defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer leaves to take a head coaching position with another team, then at least the Bengals will have a defense that already knows how to play together. Whether their defense will be as good as it was in 2013 or not depends on who returns in 2014 and who their defensive coordinator is. You’ll notice that the list of players I believe the Bengals should re-sign this offseason is defense-heavy, and for good reason. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

The Bengals do need some improvement on offense, but their offensive struggles are mostly because of the inconsistencies of their quarterback Andy Dalton. I think it’s more important for them to maintain as much of their current defense as they can and hope that Dalton is more consistent in 2014. That’s what will carry them to the playoffs again next season, and maybe Dalton can finally get his first playoff win to get the Bengals past the first round of the playoffs.

So, out of the 13 free agents the Bengals have heading into 2014, which five are the most vital to a successful 2014 season and the most important for them to re-sign?

Jenna Aquino is a Big Ten Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter, "Like" her on Facebook, add her to your network on Google, or reach her by e-mail at starz9815@hotmail.com.

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5. Andrew Hawkins – WR

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Mark Zerof - USA Today Sports

Andrew Hawkins spent some time on the Bengals’ injured reserve list in 2013 and was activated late in October. In his three-year career, Hawkins has caught 86 passes for 995 yards and four touchdowns, but because of his injury in 2013 he caught just 12 passes for 199 yards and no touchdowns. He could be a vital part of the receiving corps for the Bengals if he stays healthy. He is still young and has the potential to do some great things. Not re-signing Hawkins could be a big mistake.

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4. Vincent Rey – LB

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Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports

Vincent Rey has had 88 tackles in his three-year career, most of which came in 2013. Rey had 57 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two interceptions for the Bengals this past season. He has shown what he can do, and hopefully that will be good enough for the Bengals to re-sign him.

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3. Michael Boley – LB

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Pat Lovell - USA Today Sports

Michael Boley was added to the roster after the season began but missed some playing time because of a hamstring injury. He only had 10 tackles in 2013, but in his nine-year career he has 695 tackles, 9.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, nine fumbles recovered, eight interceptions and one blocked kick. If Boley stays healthy, he could be a huge part of the Bengals defense in 2014.

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2. Chris Crocker – DB

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Mitch Stringer - USA Today Sports

Chris Crocker was a free agent after last season as well and was not on the Bengals’ roster early in the season. However, because of multiple injuries suffered by the Bengals defense, they signed him late in September. Crocker is not normally a starter, but he knows how to play his position and lets you know he is in the game. The Bengals need to realize what a great asset he is to their defense and keep him around in 2014. Crocker had 36 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and seven passes deflected in 2013. In his 11-year career, he has 553 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 15 interceptions, 64 passes deflected and seven forced fumbles.

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1. Michael Johnson – DE

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Andrew Weber - USA Today Sports

Michael Johnson will go to free agency if he is not franchise tagged for a second straight year. It would be a mistake for the Bengals not to keep him. Johnson is one of the more recognized players on the Bengals roster and for good reason. He has 202 tackles, 26.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, three interceptions and 25 deflected passes in his five-year career. Johnson was a vital part of the success of the Bengals defense in 2013 with 56 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception and nine passes deflected. Not re-signing Johnson could perhaps be the biggest mistake the Bengals make this offseason.