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NFL Cincinnati Bengals

5 Cincinnati Bengals Storylines To Follow Leading Up To Free Agency

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5 Cincinnati Bengals Storylines To Follow Leading Up To Free Agency

Cincinnati Bengals 2014 NFL Free Agency
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The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t known as big players in the free agent market. Typically they sit back, maybe try to grab a value signing or two, but shy away from getting in the mix for the big names that are available.

That may have been the proper strategy for a team that was constantly just trying to make themselves competitive, but now that they've made the playoffs the last two years the expectations have changed dramatically.

Heading into next year, for the first time in a long time, just making the playoffs won’t be good enough for the Bengals. They've built the kind of team that is going to be seen as a failure if they don’t get themselves a postseason victory.

Getting that victory might entail them taking more risks in free agency then they typically like to. They need to swing for the fences this year if they want to go from pretty good to a real title contender. That’s the hard part in the NFL.

Going from bad to kinda good is pretty easy, all you have to do is draft relatively well with your valuable draft picks. But, going from good to great is very hard. It means taking risks and having them pay off for you. It means making the hard choices, not the easy ones.

This offseason is a big one for the Bengals. They need to both sure up their young core of talent, and at the same time augment that talent with some new players who can get them over the hump and into a conference championship game.

I can’t wait to see what they do, and these are the five Cincinnati Bengals storylines I will be following heading into free agency.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Does A.J. Green Get A Contract Extension?

Cincinnati Bengals 2014 NFL Free Agency
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A.J. Green is one of the best receivers in the league, and he’s entering the final year of his rookie deal. The Bengals could simply just exercise the fifth year of his original deal, but they would prefer to avoid any kind of franchise tag / holdout issues in the future. They have the cap room to resign him now, they might choose to backload a new deal and ensure he stays in Cincinnati for a long time.

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4. Do They Cut Ties With Benjarvus Green-Ellis?

Cincinnati Bengals 2014 NFL Free Agency
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The law firm was one of the most reliable ball carriers in the league for several years, but those days look to be coming quickly to an end. They have a younger model in Giovanni Bernard, who has some real upside and is going to officially take over as the top back next year. Benjarvus Green-Ellis makes too much money to be a No. 2 back, so the Bengals might get rid of him and replace him with a cheaper alternative in free agency.

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3. Do They Bring In Competition For Andy Dalton?

Cincinnati Bengals 2014 NFL Free Agency
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When the Bengals drafted Andy Dalton in the second round of the 2011 draft they weren’t exactly sure of what they were getting. After three pretty good seasons, they still aren’t exactly sure what they have. He puts up good stats, but he doesn’t win when it matters. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the man for the job going forward, but it has raised some questions. He’ll get another chance to break through in the playoffs next season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincinnati brought in a quality veteran to nip at his heels a little this offseason.

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2. Can They Re-Sign Michael Johnson?

Cincinnati Bengals 2014 NFL Free Agency
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The Bengals would love to have Michael Johnson back next year, and for years to come, but he is reportedly asking for an astronomical sum of money. That may just be posturing, but we’ve seen before that all it takes is for one team to talk themselves into a player and that guy immediately gets overpaid.

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1. Does The Secondary Get An Upgrade?

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The Cincinnati defense is already one of the best in the league, but adding an elite corner could put them over the top and into a Seattle Seahawks level of defensive dominance. Guys like Aqib Talib and Alterraun Verner would both be immediate starters on the Bengals, but top-tier corners don’t come cheap. They have the money to get the deal done, but history says Cincinnati won’t make the big splash. Only time will tell.