The lockout has ended and football is back. After an intense couple days of free agency, things are beginning to get back to normal as free agents are allowed to practice with the rest of the team today. Before things settled down a little bit, though, the Bengals were busier than we've seen them in a long while.
They signed linebackers Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard in response to Keith Rivers and Roddrick Muckelroy's injuries. They signed Nate Clements in response to losing Johnathan Joseph to free agency. They signed Bruce Gradkowski so they would have a veteran quarterback on the team. They signed offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles to help add some depth to the line. Then they re-signed some of their own free agents, including Brian Leonard, Cedric Benson, Gibril Wilson and Brandon Johnson.
For all of these transactions, the guys at ESPN (In$ider) gave the Bengals a grade of C-.
Analysis: The Bengals lost a few good football players, most notably Joseph, but replacing him with Clements wasn't a bad rebounding effort. Clements isn't the player he was in Buffalo a few years ago, but I see him as still a quality starting cornerback. The Bengals nabbed another 49er in Lawson. An edge player, his addition was rather curious. He isn't stout enough to play end or really what you look for at outside linebacker in the 4-3. He can rush the passer, though, and the Bengals will mix in some odd fronts. They do seem to have an infatuation for long wiry edge defenders such as Lawson, but they also don't always use them all that well.
As for Benson, he is what he is: a grinding, downhill, volume runner who doesn't offer much in the passing game at all but can wear a defense down with enough carries. His return wasn't a surprise at all. Gradkowksi is a tough guy who looks like the perfect bridge quarterback until Andy Dalton is ready for action. But don't be surprised if Gradkowski keeps Dolton on the bench longer than some might thing. Howard could be poised to make an impact at outside linebacker, and that could set up Rey Maualuga to move inside. Leonard is just a solid all-around player and contributor.
Hopefully the Bengals aren't quite done. I'd love to see them sign a safety to add some much needed depth (come on Whitner) at the position as well as keep adding depth to other positions.
What post-lockout grade would you give the Bengals so far?