When reports initially surfaced that the Cincinnati Bengals were interested in safety Donte Whitner, it seems liked a good idea to begin following Whitner on Twitter. We can't say for certain what happened this afternoon. Only that it did. Surprising as it was, the shocking aspect of it wore off just as quickly because it wasn't that unbelievable. We've seen failed acquisitions in the past; there's no reason to be shocked with the prospects today. Cincinnati acquired Shaun Rodgers in a trade with the Detroit Lions during the cold month of February 2008. Epic pump fists and flesh crippling high-fives. Ha, laughed the football gods with a twisted obsession teasing Bengals fans.
Due to language issues with the trade agreement and Detroit's desire to get Rodgers' roster bonus off the books, the NFL axed the deal. The Bengals had offered to pay $1 million to the Lions because the trade wasn't finalized on time, but the league said that there was no language in the CBA that allowed this maneuver and thus killed the trade. I know. The Bengals offered to pay the Lions for their own mistake? That's not all. Rogers could have postponed the payment into the new league year, allowing the trade and forcing Cincinnati to pay the bonus. If the Bengals had finalized the deal before the deadline, Rogers would have come to Cincinnati. He declined to push off the bonus to the Bengals, delaying the move which ultimately prevented the trade. When the Browns came calling with a third round pick and cornerback Leigh Bodden, he accepted and was traded to Cleveland.
Earlier this afternoon free agent safety Donte Whitner tweeted two glorious words that echoes like harmonic angels signing from heaven: "Who Dey!!!!"; a declaration of his intention to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals. Soon tweets confirmed that Whitner signed a two-year deal with the Bengals; a nice relief from the series of one-year contracts that the league is saturated with. Joyous enough to feel the revelation that Whitner improves the secondary, Bengals fans exploded with a certain confidence that brought encouraging commentary. It wasn't that Whitner propelled the Bengals defense into top-five expectations, or a general announcement that Cincinnati's offense no longer needed to score more than a field goal. But an hour before he allegedly signed, it was generally believed and agreed that the safety position needed help.
Losing a top-prized free agent is rough. Two press conferences from Mike Brown that gives me nightmares today, is rougher. Yet each free agent signing since the team lost Johnathan Joseph, has eased the severity of this offseason's chronicled disaster.
Cruising on I-75 this afternoon over the bridge that passes 725 south of Dayton, a tweet jingles my phone that read:
Former Bills S Donte Whitner did NOT go to Cincinnati. He agreed to a 3-year, $11.75 million deal with $4 million gtd with the 49ERS.
That. That's impossible. No. It's a mistake. My mind was playing tricks on my like a truck full of Psilocybin mushrooms flipping over and releasing hallucinogenic properties into the air. Naji emailed the same thing (about Whitner, not the mushrooms). Wait. Is this real? Other tweets surfaced. Adam Schefter confirmed with a second tweet:
To recap: the 49ers put one safety on the trade block in a mass email and landed another that tweeted he was going to be a Bengal.
What a day. Another fantastically fueled afternoon in which my concluding thoughts naturally collide with patience. How could the Bengals actually fail to sign a player that had already agreed to terms with them? Maybe Cincinnati wasn't willing to match San Francisco's last second offer of $4 million guaranteed. It's actually somewhat understandable San Francisco waits until a deal is announced with the Bengals, make an offer to Whitner he can't refuse and tests the emotional stability of loyal Bengals fans. Mike Brown won't go into a bidding war. Not for any player. And all things being fair, free agents are having a hard time signing with the Bengals, even if an equal offer is made.
Do we blame the Bengals for that? Historically for the bad perception free agents have with this organization? Yes. For this circumstance? I don't want to blame them. Does this surprise me that it happens only to the Bengals? That's the sad thing. It doesn't.
We're not here to degrade Chris Crocker, Reggie Nelson, Robert Sands and their collection of undrafted free agents led by Tom Nelson. We'll say they're serviceable. Yet there is a reason that Bengals fans felt relieved to sign a guy with Whitner's attributes. I even remarked to one of my writers that it's nice Cincinnati is going after Ohio boys; give a little pride to the state of Ohio, bringing 'em home.
At the end of the day, sighing with my experienced and well-practiced resignation, I opened twitter, navigated to Donte Whitner's account and clicked "unfollow",