After missing the first five weeks of the Bengals’ offseason program, kicker Mike Nugent has reported to the team for the remaining three weeks of OTAs and minicamp. Whether or not he has a multi-year contract by the time the team reports to training camp in late July remains another matter.
Nugent was one of six punters or kickers who received the franchise tag, worth $2.654 million this season. So far Giants punter Steve Weatherford and Tampa Bay’s Connor Barth have signed longer deals.
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It is still quite an increase for Nugent, who had a base salary of $685,000 last season, but what he wants is security beyond this season.
“With the negotiation process, everyone’s trying to get to one common goal. At the end of the day, and I’ve been saying this for awhile, one of your goals is you want your team to want you back,” Nugent said. “I’m in a very fortunate position in that my team wants me to come back for another season. As long as you can keep performing and do the right things and your team is saying that about you, that was my thinking about the whole thing.”
Negotiations though are at a standstill. If Nugent and the Bengals are unable to reach an agreement by July 15, they can not resume until the offseason.
The benefit now is that there is a benchmark set. Barth will average $3.3 million over the course of his four-year, $13.2 million contract with $4 million being guaranteed. Barth was second in the league in field-goal accuracy which means that the other deals should come in lower.
Said Nugent of Barth’s contract: “I’m not really sure how to look at it. I kind of took it as a positive. He deserved it. He’s been kicking really well for them. It’s one of those things, you hope we’ll keep talking.”
With salary cap room though the Bengals could mirror one part of the structure of Barth’s contract by paying a large roster bonus this year instead of signing bonus, which would be prorated. Barth is receiving a $3 million roster bonus from the Bucs this year.
Nugent set a team record for field goals last season, making 34 of 40, and points (136). He also had two game-winning field goals. Nugent though did struggle down the stretch, missing four of his last 11 kicks. In 2010, he suffered a knee injury in midseason.
Said Nugent: “At the end of the day it’s great being back with the guys and Darrin (Simmons) and working with the coaches and just showing them that it’s not like I’ve been sitting around the whole time. I’ve been staying in shape and started kicking a couple of months of go.”
The previous three times the Bengals have used the franchise tag, the player has left the following year. The most recent was three years ago with kicker Shayne Graham. In 2007, they tagged defensive lineman Justin Smith at $8.644 million only to see him go to San Francisco the following year. In 2008, offensive guard Stacy Andrews was tagged at $7,455 million. He suffered a knee injury in the Week 16 win at Cleveland and then signed with Philadelphia the following offseason.
The last time the tag resulted in an extension was 2005 with running back Rudi Johnson.
Dalton pleased Pro Bowl will be played
–The joint announcement by the NFL and NFL Players Association that the 2013 Pro Bowl will continue and be held in Hawaii was welcomed by quarterback Andy Dalton.
“It’s great that they decided to keep the game around,” Dalton said. “It is an awesome experience, and an honor to get to play in the game. And I’m glad they kept the game in Hawaii. It’s a great reward at the end of the season.”
Dalton was one of four Bengals to participate in last January’s game, which was won by the AFC 59-41. The others were wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and tight end Jermaine Gresham. The quality of play in the game though was widely panned by everyone since it resembled a touch football scrimmage at times.
Said Dalton about the criticisms: “I don’t think you saw the receivers going any slower than they normally would. The pass rush is obviously lacking quite a bit but as a quarterback you like that. It’s not like a normal game. Guys don’t want to get hurt when you are enjoying the time out there.”
–The news that linebacker Brandon Joiner, who the Bengals signed as an undrafted free agent following the draft, will be serving a three-year prison term brings up the usual one liners when talking about the team and off-field incidents.
In this case though it is mostly misguided. Joiner’s incident happened in December 2007 in College Station, Tex., where police said he and another former Texas A&M player, Yemi Babalola, broke into a apartment and robbed a drug dealer at gunpoint. Following the incident, Joiner was indicted in January of 2008 for two counts of aggravated robbery and one charge of felony drug possession.
For all that the Bengals have done this offseason with a widely-lauded draft class and some solid free-agent moves, there is one number since last July that some people will focus on — five. That would be legal situations involving current or former players.
Last month, linebacker Rey Maualuga had a misdemeanor assault charged dismissed after the case was settled in mediation. Maualuga was accused of punching someone in a downtown bar in February and could still face action from the league for another violation of the personal conduct policy.
For a team trying to show it has changed its stripes, Joiner’s case and the continuing saga of Sarah Jones (who is commonly referred to as former Bengals cheerleader on first reference) is the type of attention that the team does not need.
–For a team that has failed to sell out 10 of its last 12 home games, the Bengals were happy to announce that there has been an increase in season-ticket sales. A big reason for that is prices were reduced in most of the upper deck with tickets as low as $40 per game. The $40 seats, which are sold out, were previously $60.
–Rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu said his biggest adjustment right now is reacting to things instead of thinking and that he is making mistakes once in awhile.
When asked for the biggest difference between OTAs in the NFL and spring football in college, Sanu didn’t hesitate saying “there’s no hitting here.”
–Jordan Shipley continues to get increased snaps during OTAs but still doesn’t feel like he is all the way back yet after last September’s knee injury.
“Every week I feel better. Obviously I’m healthy enough to go out there and run around,” he said. “For me, it’s a significant injury. There’s a mental component too but right now it is getting the physical component back. Right now it is jumping, getting out of my breaks fast. That’s the one thing I have to fine tune.”
QUOTE OF NOTE: “If you’re going to think about that, then somebody is working on come-back routes. So that’s how you get past it. You go out there and work your butt off. Obviously not everyone can play here. Some people will go to different teams and this stuff still helps you become a better football player. That’s all you have to focus on.” — WR Andrew Hawkins on the competition for roster spots at the position.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The only two areas where it appears like the Bengals might make some roster moves before training camp are at linebacker and wide receiver. They remain very thin at linebacker and could be in the market for a veteran wide receiver.
Most of the draft picks have missed the first couple weeks of OTAs due to various injuries but none of them look to be serious. First-round corner Dre Kirkpatrick is nursing a groin injury while running back Daniel Herron is in a walking boot.
–RB Rodney Stewart (knee) tore his ACL during the first practice of rookie minicamp and will be placed on injured reserve at some point.