Previewing The 2014 Cincinnati Bengals Schedule Release

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The Cincinnati Bengals will aim for a fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs and a second straight AFC North division title in 2014. Both objectives will be easier said than done, however, as the Bengals get to work in September without offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who left for the Washington Redskins. Cincy still has Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard rocking on offense, though, so they should be right back in contention with the Ravens and Steelers for the top of the division.

The rest of the Cincinnati Bengals schedule outside of the division is equally challenging, as the Bengals have some tough home games against the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. A likely rebounding Atlanta Falcons team could also pose a threat, while the Titans and Jaguars are easier matchups the Bengals should have little trouble closing out.

On the road, Cincy has some real challenges at hand, as they will travel to Houston, Indianapolis, New England, New Orleans and Tampa Bay. Their dates with the Texans and Buccaneers are games Cincy should win, with the other matchups bordering from difficult to brutal.

All 2014 Bengals Opponents

Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers

Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For a look at all 32 NFL team’s 2014 match-ups, click here.

Bengals extend Lewis through 2015

Lewis signed a one-year extension, keeping him from entering a lame-duck season.

Lewis signed a one-year extension, keeping him from entering a lame-duck season.

This offseason for the Cincinnati Bengals has been all about retaining the services of their own and the team added to that trend on Friday.

The team announced that Marvin Lewis had signed a one-year extension through the 2015 season to remain the team’s head coach.

Already the most tenured coach in Bengals history, Lewis enters his 12th season at the helm with a 90-85-1 regular season record . In that span, the Bengals have had just two losing seasons. This came after a stretch of 11 sub-500 seasons and one 8-8 campaign in the 12 years prior to Lewis’ arrival. The three division titles under Lewis add to the team’s eight in its 45-year history.

“Marvin has earned this commitment for the job he is doing,” Bengals President Mike Brown said. “We are one of only five teams to qualify for the playoffs the last three years, and our prospects are bright looking ahead. Marvin is driven to achieve more and we are happy to secure his leadership of our team beyond the coming season.”

One would think that, if Brown’s words were true, Lewis would have earned more than a one-year add-on to his contract.This is, by my count, the third contract Lewis has signed with the team since 2010.

For all his successes, however, the 2009 NFL coach of the Year still comes under fire for his 0-5 mark in the playoffs, including three losses at home. Excellent at building a roster and pretty good at preparing them for Sundays, most of the criticism centers around Lewis’ game management ability.

Lewis, however, deserves credit for his overhaul of the team, turning it from laughingstock into one of the AFC’s most feared units. He’s also been able to wrestle a little power from team Brown and put his stamp on the franchise.

For his part, Lewis has been an excellent coach for this franchise but this year is big for him. The concern is that he’s brought this team as far as he can and that a new voice will be needed to carry it forward and chase a Super Bowl. With his quarterback and a number of other young players hitting their primes, the time is now for the Bengals to try and make a run at that elusive first Super Bowl title.

Is Lewis the man to take them to the promised land? The team will just have to keep choppin’ wood and doing the little things right and we’ll find out.

Bengals release James Harrison

James Harrison's Bengals career has come to an end after one uneventful season.

James Harrison’s Bengals career has come to an end after one uneventful season.

The Cincinnati Bengals, on Tuesday, released outside linebacker James Harrison after just one year with the team.

Harrison’s most significant contribution in his season in Cincinnati was his performance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

The 35-year-old linebacker played in 15 games, recording 30 tackles and two sacks while interception one pass. Prior to coming to Cincinnati, Harrison spent 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers racking up 64 sacks.

With the release, the Bengals now must find a replacement at strong-side linebacker. I suggest Rey Maualuaga with Burfict moving into the middle and Sean Porter (or anyone the team acquires) getting a run on the weak side.

It’s official: Bucs’ bucks lure Collins

Anthony Collins bolted for Tampa and a five-year deal.

Anthony Collins bolted for Tampa and a five-year deal.

Now both of the Bengals’ “elite” unrestricted free agents are gone, and both are headed to Tampa Bay.

Two days after defensive end Michael Johnson signed a mega-deal with the Buccaneers, left tackle Anthony Collins bolted for the Sunshine State. The team announced the deal this morning on its website.

Adam Schefter reports that the five year deal is worth $30 million with $15 million guaranteed.

Surprisingly, the Bengals were in the chase for the talented lineman up to the very end. According to ProFootballTalk.com, the team had a very competitive offer on the table, as did the Carolina Panthers.

It’s interesting to think that, if the money was comparable, Collins selected the 4-12 Bucs over the 11-5, AFC North champion Bengals. Perhaps his time in Cincinnati, which dates back to 2008, when he was a fourth-round selection, had come to a close after six seasons and 25 starts all across the offensive line.

In the end, Collins selected Tampa Bay, leaving the Bengals with a hole to fill on the left side of its offensive line. The smart money would be on Andrew Whitworth returning to left tackle and the team looking for a new guard either in free agency or the draft.

I’d still rather see Whitworth at guard — better an elite guard than an above average left tackle. Aditionally, having Whitworth on his left hip would be a great help to Mike Pollack or whoever takes over as the Bengals’ center in 2014.

Where would Baby Hawk fit in?

The Bengals are expected to match Cleveland's offer sheet to the slot receiver.

The Bengals are expected to match Cleveland’s offer sheet to the slot receiver.

In the wee hours of the night, Adam Schefter Tweeted this out:

Assuming this is true, it’s interesting to consider what this means for the direction of the Bengals offense. Hawkins will make that guaranteed money over the next two seasons, so the team clearly would have plans for him should he return. But with the expected shift to a more run-focused attack, the amount of balls for all receivers — Hawkins, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mo Sanu, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert — should decline.

I’m on record saying that I’d like to see the team retain Hawkins because he offers something to this team in terms of playmaking ability in the open field that only Giovanni Bernard can compare to. It seems the Bengals view him the same way. Why else would they give $5mil guaranteed to a fourth receiver?

Those chunk plays where a receiver makes something out of nothing are always big lifts and hopefully Hawkins stays healthy and continues to make those plays for the Bengals for the next four years.

Day 1 roundup: Notes on Mays, Hawkins

To match or not to match? That is the question.

To match or not to match? That is the question.

The first day of the 2014 NFL season is in the books and, as expected, little noise came from Cincinnati.

A couple noteworthy tidbits happened while I was away this evening:

The Bengals have re-signed Taylor Mays according to reports. It’s not a major move but Mays will play some snaps at safety. This, combined with news earlier that Brandon Tate had re-upped surely made special teams coach Darren Simmons’ day a good one.

• The Browns have extended a four-year, $12 million offer sheet to free agent wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. I wouldn’t be upset if the team matched the offer. Hawkins give the offense playmaking ability that’s rivaled only by Gio Bernard on this roster and a match would keep him from going to a division rival. But with the new direction the offense is heading, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team let him walk.

• It’s not Bengals news, but the Jags signed Toby Gerhart (my No. 1 target for the Bengals) and with the numbers I’ve heard floated around — something in the neighborhood of three years, $10 million — I’m disgusted that the Bengals weren’t in for him.

FIRST-DAY ROUNDUP

• The Buccaneers signed Michael Johnson and will bring Anthony Collins in for a chat. This shouldn’t be surprising. Johnson, we knew, was long gone and Collins has been a long shot to return.

• In addition to Tate, the Bengals re-signed receiver/kick returner Brandon Tate and offensive lineman Mike Pollack.

• Pollack is expected to make a run at the starting center position as the Bengals released Kyle Cook on Tuesday.

Four of my top 10 potential signings went to other clubs Tuesday evening. Receiver Kenny Britt and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn are the top two on the list still on the market.

Could the “Tampa Bay Bengals” be a thing?

Michael Johnson signed a huge contract with Tampa Bay and Anthony Collins could be next.

Michael Johnson signed a huge contract with Tampa Bay and Anthony Collins could be next.

One of the more active and headline-grabbing teams in the first day of the NFL free agency period was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs brought top-tier free agent defensive end Michael Johnson to town with a five-year deal worth $43.75 million according to reports. That’s more than the Bengals invested in either Carlos Dunlap or Geno Atkins — the two defensive linemen the team signed before electing to let Johnson walk in free agency.

The 6-foot-7 end from Georgia Tech racked up 26.5 sacks and knocked down an impressive 25 passes in five years with the Bengals — three of those seasons as a starter. But he wasn’t the only former Bengal on Tampa Bay’s radar Tuesday.

Clinton McDonald, who spent a year with the Bengals before three in the Seahawks’ D-line rotation, also joined Tampa Bay on Friday with a four-year deal.

The biggest hit from Tampa could be still to come though as it appears they’re winning the war for a player the Bengals actually had hopes of keeping around — versatile offensive lineman Anthony Collins. Rick Stroud, who covers the Bucs for the Tampa Bay Times reports that Collins is scheduled to visit the team.

It’s been widely reported that the Redskins, who are coached by former Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, are interested in Collins’ services but Tampa appears to have the inside track as the new league year turns three hours old.

The ‘Skins, however, are reportedly interested in Bengals restricted free agent receiver Andrew Hawkins, as well as former Titan Kenny Britt, who was No. 3 on our Top 10 free agent wishlist.

Bengals release center Kyle Cook

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who thought center was the weakest link on the offensive line.

The Cincinnati Bengals, today, announced that they had released center Kyle Cook. The six-year veteran has spent his entire career in Cincinnati and saved us from the disaster that was Eric Ghiaciuc at center.

Cook started 68 games in his career with the Bengals, including every game from 2009-11 and all 17 contests last season but as the team looks to continue its climb up the AFC ranks, some changes were needed.

“KYle has been a great Bengal, a tough guy and an excellent leader,” offensive line coach Paul Alexander told the team website. “In addition to being a good player, he showed great ability to coordinate things and the line of scrimmage.”

Bengals.com indicates that Mike Pollack has the inside track to win the job. Pollack has never played center in the NFL but it was his position in college.