INDIANAPOLIS -- Marvin Lewis stepped up to the podium at 11:30 a.m. on Friday at the 2013 NFL Combine and discussed the state of the team. Overall, he was pleased with the long strides the young Bengals have made over the past two seasons as they've made it to the postseason both in 2011 and 2012.
He was fairly guarded, as most coaches are, when it comes to the team's plan in free agency as well as their plan for the draft. However, he did let it be known that he began his draft analysis at the offensive tackle position.
"I don't have enough information to give you an early look at anything, I've watched eight players," Lewis said. "I don't have enough look to tell you much at all. From what I've seen, where I got started, I'd say there seems to be some very talented offensive tackles and offensive line position. People have told me there's some talented defensive players, but I haven't gotten that far yet."
Beginning his draft analysis at offensive tackle could mean that the tape of tackles was just handed to him first, but it could also mean that the Bengals are thinking they may not be able to re-sign one of their key free agents.
Right tackle Andre Smith has finally been molded into a successful offensive tackle, after a long holdout in his rookie season and after multiple injuries, some of which could have been a direct result of his being overweight. In 2012, though, Smith started every game and finished the season as the Bengals' best overall offensive lineman. He will certainly want to be paid like one.
The Bengals also have to re-sign defensive end Michael Johnson, though, who netted 11.5 sacks in 2012 and showed he has the ability to be an explosive player and pressure the quarterback. In today's passing league, finding and keeping players who know how to pressure the quarterback is extremely important.
The Bengals have the most cap space in the league, but they still may find themselves unable to re-sign both Smith and Johnson. If that's the case, looking at offensive tackles first in the draft says a lot. It could say that the Bengals will choose Johnson over Smith and while they may use the franchise tag on Smith in 2012, they may not be able to re-sign him to a long-term contract.
The Bengals finished the 2012 season with a 10-6 record and, for the second year in a row, were defeated in the wildcard round of the playoffs in Houston by the Texans. With four picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft and a lot of money to spend in free agency, they have the potential to go deeper in the playoffs over the next few seasons.
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