AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals

The NFL draft is exactly three weeks away. When the Cincinnati Bengals make their first pick, they'll do so late in the first round at No. 24 overall.

They have needs at cornerback, quarterback, outside linebacker, safety, defensive end and on the offensive line. They also could add a running back or receiver at some point during the draft. Just whom will they wind up selecting with their picks in the first two rounds? ESPN's Mel Kiper has made his predictions. His second-round pick is a player who once had a first-round projection.


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CINCINNATI -- Andy Dalton is standing at a career crossroads. This could be a make or break year for him.

OK, maybe "break" isn't quite the word to use here. For the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, it's more like this could wind up being a make or keep middling type of year.

If he keeps playing like he has so far in his three-year career -- good, but occasionally bad in the regular season and overwhelmingly awful in the postseason -- then he'll continue to be regarded as a so-so quarterback who never really hit his stride, nor turned into an easily identifiable bust. He'd continue to be average -- a lukewarm signal-caller on a team with white-hot talent.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAndy Dalton has yet to make the jump from average to elite as an NFL quarterback.
Another season of such mediocrity would be considered worthy of the title "break." So what then would a "make" year look like for Dalton? Chiefly, leading the Bengals to a playoff win or two. Secondarily, keeping his interception numbers in career-low territory while also surpassing his franchise-record 33-touchdown total from a year ago. If he does both those things -- win in the postseason and have a favorable touchdown-interception ratio -- he'll have traveled down the right road in the junction he's facing.

If you ask some experts, there is no chance Dalton takes that avenue to success during this pivotal fourth season.

"He is what he is, and he will never change," ESPN insider scout Matt Williamson said in fellow ESPN insider Mike Sando's story Wednesday about forecasting success for quarterbacks at a crossroads. Insider "He will be too good to cut and not good enough to win with. He wins three or four [games] a year for his team and loses one or two, but he is so much less gifted than all the other guys we are talking about here. Maybe if he was playing indoors, he could get away with it more."

Sando's story is the basis for this blog. He focused on using metrics (mainly QBR) to determine where young quarterbacks rank among their peers, and how those metrics could predict where their careers might head. Sando compared the QBR numbers from the first 16 career games of quarterbacks who entered the league after 2006.

He found that the QBR numbers from those first 16 games correlated to three tiers of "crossroads quarterbacks." There's an elite tier, which had first 16-game QBRs that were higher than 65.2. Then there's a middle group with first 16-game QBRs between 60.1 and 42.0. A lagging group had QBRs that only got as high as 40.3. The seven-man "QBR-elite" group featured three players who appeared in recent Super Bowls. The middle group had a sizable mix of young quarterbacks and veterans, with only one having appeared in a recent Super Bowl. The final group had several players who were drafted after 2006, and who are no longer in football.

The better the QBRs were, the more promising the quarterback's career should be, it appears.

That, of course, becomes a tricky subject matter with Dalton. He is one of the few players who was forced to play from Week 1 of his rookie year. He hasn't looked back since, starting all 48 regular-season and three playoff games the Bengals have appeared in since 2011. Other quarterbacks might not even appear in a game their first two seasons. Coupled with his middle-of-the-road play the first three years, the fact he has played so much early makes it tough to forecast Dalton's career.

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Back to Williamson's comment on Dalton playing indoors. Dalton has struggled at times during games played in December and January. While he's still 0-3 in the postseason in January, he did change his December woes in 2013. After tossing a combined eight touchdowns, getting sacked a combined 27 times and compiling a 41.5 QBR through his first two Decembers, Dalton had 12 touchdowns, a 71.1 QBR and was sacked only three times last December. The effort was good enough to post a 4-1 record across the final month of the season.

Perhaps he's starting to turn a corner.

The thing is, as Dalton flirts with a contract extension this offseason before his rookie deal expires next March, he needs to do more than turn that corner. He has to turn it, run -- not walk -- down the block to the next one and the one after, and keep going until he reaches the Super Bowl. He has the receivers, tight ends, offensive line, dynamic running back and talented defense to make a deep postseason trip a possibility sometime soon.

He also has had each of those, but the combination has yet to yield a run past the wild-card round of the playoffs. Is Dalton the common denominator behind Cincinnati's postseason misfortunes? Bengals coach Marvin Lewis doesn't necessarily think so, but his quarterback's six interceptions and one touchdown pass in those three playoff games are hard to overlook.

Maybe having an offensive coordinator who is more dedicated to the run than the previous one will help Dalton. Hue Jackson's ground-game tweaks ought to ease the pressure off the quarterback's shoulders.

A looser Dalton would make the Bengals a better team. A more decisive Dalton would make him a better player.

But on-field decisions aren't the only ones he has to make right now. Soon we'll find out which path Dalton chose to take in this all-important make or break year at the crossroads.

Bengals sign punter T.J. Conley

April, 16, 2014
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CINCINNATI -- On the same day they announced the start date of their training camp, the Cincinnati Bengals signed a special-teams player whose primary function will be to give them an additional training camp leg.

Punter T.J. Conley, formerly of the Browns and Jets, was signed Wednesday by the Bengals to serve as a backup to starting punter Kevin Huber, who ought to be fully recovered by late July from a December jaw injury. Huber missed the final two games of the regular season and a playoff game after breaking his jaw following a hard blindside hit from the Pittsburgh Steelers' Terence Garvin.

Conley comes to the Bengals after having spent the 2013 preseason with the Browns. He didn't make the team once the regular season started.

The 28-year-old last appeared in a regular-season game in 2011. He punted in all 16 games for the Jets that year, averaging 42.7 yards on 92 punts. His 38.8-yard net average was the highest in Jets history; the statistic was first tracked in 1976. He also had 32 kicks that fell inside the 20 and six touchbacks. Like he did with the Browns last season, Conley started the 2012 season with the Jets, but didn't make the main club by the regular season.

He entered the NFL with the Jets in 2009 as a free agent.

In an attempt to save their punters' and kickers' legs in the preseason, teams often sign multiple punters and kickers to help with the load. Conley will get some experience backing up Huber, just as kicker/punter Quinn Sharp ought to do the same behind kicker Mike Nugent. Sharp was signed to a future's contract at the end of the 2013 season.
With so many core players from last season returning, along with the few veteran free agents they signed this offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals are in relatively good shape when it comes to draft needs.

They aren't looking for many immediate impact players, but they still would like to add cornerbacks, defensive ends, versatile offensive linemen who can play multiple positions, outside linebackers and quarterbacks to add to their depth chart. Players at those positions could end up having tremendous value in later years as the Bengals continue building for the future.

With less than a month until draft weekend, ESPN Insider Todd McShay released his fourth 2014 mock draft Insider on Thursday. His first-round Bengals pick is one football fans across the Buckeye State ought to find intriguing.


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ESPN's AFC North team reporters -- Jamison Hensley (Ravens), Coley Harvey (Bengals), Pat McManamon (Browns) and Scott Brown (Steelers) -- take a look at the remaining free agents in the division:

BALTIMORE RAVENS

TE Dallas Clark: He looked like a tight end playing in his final season, catching 31 passes for the Ravens (his fewest in a season since 2006). It wouldn't be a surprise if Clark retired. He turns 35 in June.

TE Ed Dickson: The signing of Owen Daniels rules out a return for Dickson. He'll be playing in the NFL in 2014, and it will likely be for about the league minimum. Dickson needs a fresh start elsewhere, and he's visiting the Carolina Panthers.

RB Bernard Scott: The Ravens opted to sign Justin Forsett instead of Scott to be their third running back. Scott could have trouble catching on with another team. This offseason, Scott turned 30, which is not a kind number for running backs.

WR Brandon Stokley: He said after the season that he plans to retire after suffering another concussion. Stokley was the last active player from the Ravens' 2000 Super Bowl championship team.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

LB Michael Boley: Signed to a one-year deal early last season, Boley has been seen as little more than a stop-gap for last season's team. His return is unlikely.

DB Chris Crocker: Danieal Manning's signing last week might have been enough to prevent the Bengals from re-signing Crocker. The two play similar positions and serve similar purposes as older players. Crocker still hasn’t announced -- for a third time -- if he’s retiring.

P Zoltan Mesko: Much like Boley, Mesko was a stop-gap solution while punter Kevin Huber was out injured. When OTAs and minicamps resume, Huber is expected to be near full health from a broken jaw.

OT Dennis Roland: Though the Bengals signed former Packers tackle Marshall Newhouse this offseason, they still could re-sign Roland for depth, and to give them a tackle who can be a good short-yardage edge blocker.

TE Alex Smith: There is still a chance the Bengals could bring Smith back, considering H-back Orson Charles was arrested and charged with wanton endangerment March 31 in Richmond, Ky., the result of what police believe was a road rage incident involving a handgun.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

C Alex Mack: His only visit has been to Jacksonville, where the Jaguars are expected to sign him to an offer sheet. The Browns then will have five days to decide if they want to match the offer.

RB Willis McGahee: Not surprising there has been so little interest. His age and the poor running back market make him a tough sign.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

OT Levi Brown: Suffered a season-ending triceps injury before playing a down for the Steelers last season; would have to accept a non-guaranteed contract to return and try to make the team in 2014.

WR Plaxico Burress: Wants to play in 2014, but is 36 and coming off a shoulder injury that sidelined him all of last season; does not appear to be in Steelers' plans.

RB Felix Jones: Didn't show enough last season as a change-of-pace back or a kickoff returner to warrant serious consideration for the Steelers to bring him back.

DE Brett Keisel: Re-signing the 12th-year veteran is still an option for the Steelers, who are thin along the defensive line, though nothing will happen until after the draft.

P Mat McBriar: McBriar did OK after the Steelers signed him in October, but it looks like they will go with a younger leg at the position in 2014.

C/G David Snow: Didn't dress in final four games after signing with Pittsburgh last December, and the Steelers have added depth to their offensive line.

RB LaRod Stephens-Howling: Another player coming off an injury (torn ACL) the Steelers might consider re-signing once he is healthy or close to full strength.

LB Stevenson Sylvester: Is a core special teams player and a depth guy the Steelers would probably have interest in bringing back at the right price.

C Fernando Velasco: The Steelers are likely to re-sign one of their most unsung players in 2013 once he has fully recovered from the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in November.

LB Jamaal Westerman: Played in the regular-season finale after signing with the Steelers last December, but is not not in the team's plans.
CINCINNATI -- Now that the Cincinnati Bengals have signed former Houston Texan Danieal Manning to a one-year deal, let's take a look at how his career numbers compare to the other safeties already on Cincinnati's roster.

Manning, an eight-year veteran who also spent five years with the Bears, joins a defensive backfield that includes safeties Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Taylor Mays and Shawn Williams. Unrestricted free agent Chris Crocker is still technically in the mix at the position, too, even though Manning's signing seems a clear indicator that Crocker won't be re-signed before free agency ends. It was doubtful he'd want to make a comeback next season anyway after entering retirement the past two years. Still, we included Crocker's numbers to give an idea of how Manning compares.

One area where Manning will be a help, particularly at the strong safety position he and Iloka could conceivably battle for, is in forcing turnovers. The numbers show that, like Nelson, he has a knack for doing that.

As you can see, he stacks up quite favorably in other areas, too:

CINCINNATI -- After taking the past three months off to get over their third wild-card round playoff loss in as many seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals will officially get back to work April 21.

The NFL announced Thursday the starting dates for each team's strength and conditioning programs, and offseason workouts and minicamps. With the NFL draft occurring two weeks later than usual, the Bengals and other teams tweaked their calendars a bit. Seven teams officially begin offseason work Monday. Each of them have new head coaches, including former Bengals coordinators Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, who are in Washington and Minnesota, respectively.

Cincinnati is one of 19 teams that begin conditioning programs on April 21. The remaining teams get going April 22.

Below is a breakdown of each set of offseason workouts the Bengals will have this spring. After that, they are expected to return in late July for training camp.

April 21: Offseason strength and conditioning program begins

May 27-29: Voluntary OTA for veterans and rookies

June 3-5: Voluntary OTA for veterans and rookies

June 10-12: Mandatory minicamp for veterans and rookies

June 16-18: Voluntary OTA for veterans and rookies
CINCINNATI -- Each of the last three offseasons, the Cincinnati Bengals' personnel plans were easily identifiable.

[+] EnlargeDanieal Manning
AP Photo/Denis PoroyDanieal Manning's addition follows the Bengals' plan of adding mentors to the roster.
As they turned the page from a disastrous four-win 2010 season and tried to carve a fresher path under coach Marvin Lewis and his renewed contract, they made a clear and obvious focus on youth. The idea at the time was to spend those drafts selecting the best talent available and to continue molding the other young stars from the 2009 and 2010 classes that were already on the roster. They felt if they could build from the bottom, a playoff team could be created.

Three straight postseason appearances later, it seems they were right.

But now that much of that recently drafted talent has started maturing and entering second contract deals, the Bengals have realized they need to attack this offseason's personnel changes slightly differently. The youth movement is all but over. As their last few free-agency signings will attest, these days the Bengals are riding a new wave of roster additions that are all about age.

Experience, leadership and mentorship are at the forefront of the last two free-agency adds and extensions, in particular.

The latest elder added to the Bengals' ranks was 31-year-old safety Danieal Manning, a nine-year veteran who spent the last three seasons with the Texans. He played a key role in helping stop the Bengals in the 2011 wild-card round playoff game by recording seven stops, and he was part of a Houston team that beat Cincinnati in the 2012 postseason, too.

His playoff experience is just one of the many traits Manning has in common with fellow newly signed or extended Bengals Domata Peko, Marshall Newhouse and Jason Campbell.

Another trait Manning has in common with that trio is familiarity. Not only did Peko recommit to the team on a two-year contract extension that will keep him in Cincinnati through 2016, but Newhouse is coming from Green Bay getting set to play with the quarterback he helped protect for three years in college. Campbell's signing last month meant that he and his former Oakland Raiders head coach and offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, are reunited. Manning will have his own reunion of sorts by reconnecting with Vance Joseph, his former secondary coach who the Bengals hired earlier this offseason to help lead the safeties.

Aside from Newhouse, who is 25, age is another tie that binds the Bengals' latest free-agency signings. Peko will be 30 in November. Campbell will be 33 in December and Manning will turn 32 in training camp.

More than all those common characteristics, though, Manning's addition -- just like Peko's, Newhouse's and Campbell's -- has to do with the Bengals wanting to sign a seasoned veteran who can give quality minutes and help take Cincinnati's youngest stars through the next stage of their development. Now that players like second-year safety George Iloka have played regularly since their rookie seasons, it's time for them to get added guidance they may have missed with so few veterans playing alongside them.

In Campbell, Andy Dalton now has a quarterback who he can truly learn from and talk to off the field. In Newhouse, the offensive line might have a new voice in the huddle, but it's one who knows how to handle Dalton. In Peko, the entire team just got back a leader whose words and actions helped inspire the organization through its three-year transition.

It's a transition that appears to have come to as much of an end as a youth movement in the NFL can. When the draft comes next month, the Bengals won't focus on adding must-start rookies like they had been. They'll instead look for players who will add to their depth and who can be groomed into their system.

For now, that's a good thing for the Bengals. It means they feel so good about the on-field side of their team that the focus is on creating additional off-field influences. When a team's personnel moves are dictated in part by the mental and psychological nurturing of its core, that's a clear sign it feels more than confident in the everyday talent it already has.

It's all part of a new wave of age that is on its way to Cincinnati.
After winning the AFC North for a third time and going 11-5, the Cincinnati Bengals have the 24th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. A cornerback, interior offensive lineman or linebacker would make sense for that first-round pick. In the rounds that follow, quarterbacks, defensive linemen, safeties and running backs could be drafted by Cincinnati.

Mel Kiper's fourth 2014 NFL mock draft hit ESPN's Insider page Thursday. His first-round choice for the Bengals is a player with rather local ties.

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CINCINNATI -- Orson Charles is not a Cincinnati Bengals superstar.

He isn't a starter, either. His position of H-back, while one Bengals coaches said they were committed to this offseason, is not the most important on the team.

They could easily move on without him.

Charles
It is for that reason the little-used player has to realize the timing of his Monday night arrest for wanton endangerment couldn't have been worse. If the facts of the incident alleging gun-waving and threatening road rage behavior by Charles are true, he has suddenly found himself to be more expendable than before.

No player's time on a roster is guaranteed. They are all expendable, particularly when situations arise in which the league's conduct policy could be used as the basis of a release or suspension. But when you're a player who is down on the depth chart, you don't want to give the front office any added reason reconsider your roster spot.

It should be emphasized that as of now there is no reason to believe such actions will be taken by the Bengals against Charles. As it typically does in instances involving arrests, the team is sticking to its policy of letting the legal process take its course before it comments or acts.

Still, the ice the tight-end-turned-H-back is standing on has worn thin. He already was having issues getting on the field. Now the Bengals might have good reason to refuse him access to it ever again.

Charles has been a respected member of the Bengals' locker room. Aside from a pre-draft DUI in Athens, Ga., in 2012, off-field trouble hadn't previously found him during his two-year NFL career. His behavior had mirrored that of his teammates.

And after several off-field incidents earned them a reputation last decade for having players who often ran afoul of the law, the Bengals have undergone a bad-boy purge the past three seasons.

It's because of that recent image-cleaning the Bengals could make Charles an example. It would be their opportunity to reassert how seriously they take off-field problems, and demonstrate the value they place on signing and retaining high-character players. The events of Charles' incident, as outlined by the incident report obtained Tuesday by ESPN.com, don't reflect those traits.

That Charles barely played on offense last season, appearing on just 62 snaps as an H-back, is another reason for the Bengals to cut him. He caught one pass last season, and it came in the regular-season finale.

This offseason, running backs coach Kyle Caskey said the Bengals were committed to keeping Charles as an H-back instead of considering a true blocking fullback. They switched Charles from tight end last preseason in a move that surprised many. Not only was he drafted as a tight end, but he starred at the position in college at Georgia, catching passes from quarterback Aaron Murray (a player the Bengals could target in May's draft).

At the time of Charles' switch, the Bengals were trying to teach him to be a run blocker out of the backfield, even though fourth-year fullback and fan favorite John Conner was on the roster. Conner's August release caught many off guard.

As offensive coordinator Hue Jackson attempts to implement more of a physical, run-based scheme, having additional backfield blockers like Charles could be beneficial. It could be of particular help when those blockers have the pass-catching experience Charles does, adding to the difficulty of preparing for the scheme.

That is all to say that Cincinnati has a few reasons to keep Charles, but his arrest did little to illuminate them. If he makes it through all of this, for his sake, you have to hope he's able to restore his formerly clean image.
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CINCINNATI -- My first day on the Cincinnati Bengals beat was a busy one.

It was Labor Day, last September, and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins had just signed a five-year, $55 million contract extension that was to keep him in Cincinnati through the 2017 season. It also was the first official day of the new regular season. The Bengals had played their final preseason game several days prior and were beginning to implement their game plan for the following Sunday's season opener at Chicago.

Upon walking into the Bengals' locker room for the first time, I stopped at one locker, pausing to join an interview scrum. It was Domata Peko's locker.

Peko and his massive beard and flowing locks served as my unofficial welcome committee.

I couldn't help but think back to that day as the 29-year-old defensive tackle signed his own contract extension on Thursday. It's a two-year deal that will keep him in Bengals stripes through the 2016 season.

[+] EnlargeDomata Peko
AP Photo/Tom UhlmanThe Bengals will tell you that Domata Peko's value goes well beyond his on-field production.
Many of the questions to Peko that early-September day revolved around Atkins' extension and what it meant for a now older and more experienced defensive line. Some seven months later, the questions about the line are now about whether Peko really is a good fit for the longevity of the unit.

He is.

It's easy to come to such a conclusion when you consider the driving force behind Peko's extension: continuity.

As the Bengals go through several personnel changes this offseason, including one rather big alteration at their right defensive end position, they are hoping to otherwise maintain as much of their previous identity as possible. After all, it has been with Peko serving as its most vocal leader that the defense has gone from ranking 30th in 2006 -- his rookie season -- to third in 2013. Cincinnati's best defensive teams in that time span have come in the past five seasons. Sure, former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had an enormous hand in that, but Peko played some part in it, too.

"Peko is a great player. A fantastic player. I love Peko," Zimmer told Bengals.com at the owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., this week. "His character, his toughness, his leadership. All he cares about is winning. He doesn't care about himself. He [would ask] me every single week, 'Coach, how should I play this guy?' Every single week. People don't know it, he's one of the best leaders in the room.

"He was always good for me."

So were the other players who are expected to comprise the Bengals' starting defensive line next season.

Atkins has been part of the line since 2010. Aside from the seven games he missed in 2013 with an ACL injury, he has appeared in every other Bengals game of his career. Carlos Dunlap also has seen his share of playing time since 2010 at defensive end. Robert Geathers' playing time has been muted in recent seasons because of Michael Johnson's presence at the right end position, but with Johnson now gone to Tampa Bay, Geathers figures to head a right end rotation that will include Wallace Gilberry and Margus Hunt. Ultimately, Hunt may end up getting the most playing time of the three, depending upon situations and how well he develops into his second season.

In addition to attempting to fill Johnson's massive shoes, the Bengals also are weathering changes on their coaching staff. Hue Jackson was promoted to offensive coordinator after Jay Gruden took the Washington head coaching job, and Paul Guenther was elevated to defensive coordinator following Zimmer's departure to Minnesota.

With so much change on an already comparatively successful team -- one that still had a first-round playoff loss despite winning 11 games and the AFC North -- continuity can be a coach's best friend.

"Domata has been a significant and productive player for our defense for many years now," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "He is a leader among our veterans and a mentor for our younger players, and securing his future as a Bengal through the next three seasons is another positive step in continuing to improve our team."

Much like he was during his Labor Day interview session, Peko has been one of the more reflective Bengals the past seven months. He has spoken often recently about how his defensive line has been key to making the organization finally look like a legitimate postseason contender. He was there for two four-win seasons. He saw a 7-9 year in 2007, and an 8-8, playoff-less showing in 2006. So he understands all too well the effort that has gone into turning around the franchise.

His sentimentality isn't only for the football field, either. He's quick to share his still raw emotions to new and old reporters alike when thinking back on the pain of losing two good friends, Chris Henry and Thomas Howard, to automobile accidents. He continues to keep momentos that remind him of Henry in his locker. Following Howard's death in November, he had hats with Howard's number "53" made for teammates to wear.

There's value in keeping around someone who knows what it was like before the good, playoff-hungry feelings existed in this locker room. There's value in keeping around a player who understands the pain the franchise has endured and the frustrations its fans have felt. Beyond his play as a defender and as a blocking fullback on offense, that's the value the Bengals continue to see in Peko, and why they felt they needed to keep him around at least another three years.

He is their great defensive motivator, and entering a pivotal season that has already seen enough change, they need his veteran presence. They need him to keep continuity.
When Jason Campbell visited last week with Cincinnati Bengals coaches, they made their intentions for wanting him clear. They were looking for him to push starting quarterback Andy Dalton and to be the extra voice of support and criticism that they feel will be crucial for the young player's development.

Campbell
A nine-year veteran, Campbell has just about seen it all on the professional stage. He has experienced the bitter taste of postseason defeat. He has felt the disappointment, shame and anger that is associated with having a season ruined by a major injury. He has had to adapt to being the older journeyman backup after years of being a starter.

Those are just a few of the lessons they'd like Campbell to share with Dalton during downtime the two may have between now and the start of the 2014 season. They also want Hue Jackson's former quarterback to impart his wisdom about playing for the new Bengals offensive coordinator. In 2010 and 2011, Campbell played for Jackson when the latter was the offensive coordinator and head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Since the reasons for Campbell's signing last week have so much more to do with off-field benefits than on-field concerns, the veteran quarterback was not expecting to get a major windfall of cash on his one-year deal. Nor is he getting one.

According to Campbell's contract details obtained by ESPN Stats & Information, the signal-caller will be making $400,000 of guaranteed money this year. That's slightly down from the $500,000 of guaranteed cash he agreed to last season when he played in nine games with the Browns. Much like his overall salary from Cleveland, Campbell this season will boast a cap value in Cincinnati of $1.5 million.

He is now just barely the second-highest paid quarterback on the team. Dalton's cap value for 2014 is slated to be about $1.66 million. There's a chance that number could change this offseason, though, as the Bengals try to extend Dalton's contract. His rookie deal will expire after the 2014 season. Much of the talk around the Bengals already this week has dealt with owner and president Mike Brown's insistence that Cincinnati is committed to making the re-signing of Dalton their focus, but that he just doesn't know exactly when such a deal can be feasibly brokered.

It's for that reason that you probably shouldn't be surprised if the Bengals still end up drafting a quarterback in May, even after signing Campbell to the one-year deal.

Here is how the rest of Campbell's 2014 contract breaks down:

Cap value: $1,500,000
Cash value: $1,500,000
Signing bonus: $400,000
Roster bonus: $0
Workout bonus: $100,000
Base salary: $1,000,000
Guaranteed money: $400,000
CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals were awarded two compensatory picks for the upcoming NFL draft, the league announced from its owners meetings Monday.

Those particular selections will come in the sixth and seventh rounds of the draft that will be held in New York May 8-10. In addition to their predetermined seven picks, the Bengals will now have two selections each in the sixth and seventh rounds, pushing their draft total to nine. The last time the Bengals had nine picks in one draft was 2010, when they selected tight end Jermaine Gresham in the first round.

Last year, the Bengals had 10 selections either through trades or the compensatory pick process.

Teams are awarded compensatory draft choices based upon what happens in the previous free-agency period. Teams that lose more or better free agents than they acquire in the previous year are eligible to receive compensatory draft picks, as long as those free agents are among the top 32 compensatory free agents in the league that year. Since the Bengals lost one player (Brian Leonard) in 2013 who fell outside that top 32-player range, they were not awarded a compensatory pick for him.

The players who were covered based on the league's stipulations of compensatory free agents were Josh Brown, Bruce Gradkowski, Manny Lawson, Pat Sims and Dan Stuka. Since those five players were only replaced by three free agents in Josh Johnson, Mike Pollak and Alex Smith, the Bengals were only allowed two compensatory picks.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The NFL Management Council came up with the formula, and it's one that does not cover every free agent lost or signed by a club. The compensatory picks themselves can only be made in rounds three through seven.

Offensive linemen Reid Fragel and T.J. Johnson were Cincinnati's two compensatory pick selections last year. Fragel was eventually released, and Johnson still is on roster as a backup center. This year's compensatory picks will be the 212th and 252nd overall draft choices.
CINCINNATI -- While he waits on a bigger pay day in the near future, Vontaze Burfict picked up big additional bucks this season, according to the NFL's annual report on performance-based pay.

The league released the report's findings Monday, showing the Cincinnati Bengals linebacker as one of 11 players who earned an extra $250,000 or more in compensation for the 2013 season. The report said Burfict earned $315,847.69 in performance-based pay for his second season. Only Bears offensive tackle Jordan Mills had more performance-based pay last year, bringing in $318,243.96.

Burfict had a similarly strong earning year as a rookie, too, leading the league with about $299,000 in performance-based pay that year.

The secondary compensation system is designed for players whose playing time ended up being much higher than what their salary would have originally paid. Late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents who became starters tend to earn the most in performance-based pay because their base salaries are usually very low.

Burfict, an undrafted free agent from Arizona State, had a base salary of $390,000 in 2012. He had a base salary of $480,000 in 2013. Injuries forced Burfict into the starting rotation his rookie season, when he went on to lead the team with 127 tackles. Not only did he lead the team in tackles during his Pro Bowl 2013 season, but he led the league and set a franchise record with 171.

Cincinnati's next-highest earning player on last season's performance-based pay scale was safety George Iloka, who received more than $281,000. Receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones received an additional $159,000 and $156,000, respectively.

The extra cash Burfict made could be a precursor of what's to come in the coming months or year. The linebacker will become a restricted free agent at the end of next season. It's quite clear the Bengals would like to make him part of their free agency plans this year, either re-signing him this offseason or at some point early in the 2014 regular season. The timing of Burfict's next contract could be impacted by the timing of quarterback Andy Dalton's second deal. Owner and president Mike Brown has already made it clear that Dalton is the piece the team is looking to shore up first and foremost. He, too, will be a free agent after next year.

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