We've lost Stacy Andrews, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Ryan Fitzpatrick. We've signed Daniel Coats, DeDe Dorsey, Chris Crocker, Orien Harris, and Darryl Blackstock back. Shayne Graham (franchise tag), Rashad Jeanty (RFA) and Brandon Johnson (RFA) were given respective offers, however, all three remain unsigned. We've lost the team's best wide receiver, the team's backup quarterback and, we believe, that the Eagles really stretched to sign Andrews.
It seems likely that they'll lose Cedric Benson to the Houston Texans, while Derrick Ward, once in the mix with the Bengals, signed with Tampa Bay on Monday night. Through four days of free agency, the Bengals have made noise with two running backs, a departed wide receiver and a veteran receiver taking a stroll through the city on Tuesday. That's it.
What about center? Have they made noise among offensive linemen? We're not wondering why they haven't signed one, just why and if they've made any noise. We didn't expect them to look at free agency for the defensive line -- they're convinced that they're set with defensive tackles and defensive ends are paid well on this team already (that's their mind set). We've brought back most of our linebackers that were free agents -- unrestricted and restricted -- with the lone exception being Corey Mays. The secondary, perhaps the most stable unit on defense, is one cover safety away from being complete; so says Mike Zimmer.
There was always the chance that the Bengals would be quiet during free agency, using the draft to fill the gaps they identified as lacking, or underachieving (nice word, isn't it?). The NFL Draft is typically the Bengals off-season hour to acquire better talent that they couldn't, or decidedly don't want to, pick up through free agency.
So we've updated our off-season target list, which can be addressed in the Draft or during the second-tier acquisitions that happen after free agency moves takes a break. In no particular order.
- Running back
- Offensive tackle
- Pass rushing defensive end
- Defensive tackle
- Wide Receiver
We include pass rushing defensive end because, well, we suffer on rushing the quarterback. However, we don't expect the Bengals to invite a guy that will dominate opposing offenses because of the investments they have tied up with Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom. There's a good shot we could upgrade our defensive tackle position, but we generally assume that the Bengals are set there with Sims and Peko and project status still attached to Jason Shirley.
Wide receiver is tricky. The Bengals were on track to rebuild the position during last year's draft with the anticipation that Houshmandzadeh would leave Cincinnati after the season; if not also including Chad Johnson leaving in a trade (which seems less likely today than this time last year). We agree that they should pick up a veteran wide receiver, but not at the risk of suffocating the develop of receivers that are still relative unknowns. If the Bengals were set up for a playoff run in 2009, our opinion would be different. However, as far as we can tell, not much has improved from the 4-11-1 last year, save for Carson Palmer's return. And even his return doesn't bring any assurances that he won't get hurt again in 2009 with the team's near-identical, minus Stacy Andrews, offensive line.
The Bengals inability to work on rebuilding their running back depth has been awful. Several offensive tackles and centers have signed with new teams, while the Bengals weren't even close to be considered. As far as what's being reported, they never extended themselves. We were disappointed when the team didn't make any effort with center Jason Brown, who eventually signed the biggest deal by a center.
Ultimately, in my opinion, we still should use the first two picks with the offensive line, with our utmost focus being on protecting Carson Palmer. We need depth; we also need long-term visions with players that will stick around for a some time. We're not being as critical as it sounds with the Bengals, just observations at this point.
In the end, the Bengals have lost more than they've acquired through free agency. We suspect this is on purpose, however, we shouldn't put it past them that they're just not able to bring free agents into Cincinnati, even with their best efforts.
How would you grade their free agency after only four days?