As we've noted in a few posts since the Bengals' 2011 season ended, the Bengals aren't big players in free agency. We also recently went over the names of all of the potential free agents for 2012 and there are quite a few names that pop out as "franchise players". The Bengals tasted success in 2011, albeit with quite a few glaring roster holes.
As fans look at the potential free agent list, they begin to salivate over marquee names that they hope to see in stripes the next season. Even though they are slow movers in free agency, the Bengals do tend to surprise us with some big name signings (Terrell Owens, Adam Jones, Larry Johnson), but usually it's because they come with baggage and/or are at the end of their career.
Well, our friend Geoff Hobson at Bengals.com dropped a little hint as to what the Bengals plans are for this impending free agency period:
As usual when free agency starts March 13, they won’t be looking for big names and are most likely to focus on signing own players. The Bengals hope to have guys like kicker
Mike Nugent and safety Reggie Nelson locked up before offseason workouts start April 16 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Hobson usually has a pretty good pulse on the team and what their plans are, so this is probably accurate. It would be a stretch to say that this is a surprise, though it is frustrating. The real question is what constitutes a "big name" in Hobson's and the team's eyes. Is it specific players or positions that they won't be targeting?
For instance, one could argue that guys like Ray Rice, Matt Forte and Arian Foster are all elite names and some of the best at their position. The Bengals probably won't opt for these types of players and look towards the draft. However, does that mean that they'd look at the best player at a non-flashy position, say offensive guard, like Carl Nicks? Again, I'd doubt it based on Hobson's take.
Most agree that the best way to build a team is through the draft and I echo that sentiment. You can get good, young talent locked up for four or five years to build a foundation. The Bengals have seemed to have done a good job of that over the past couple of years, but it's become obvious that talented veterans from other successful clubs would be great additions to a team seemingly headed in the right direction. After all, the point of free agency is to plug a lot of roster holes and then fill the rest and add depth through the draft. A successful team isn't continuously built if a team invests too heavily in one or the other.
It's still really early to see how their offseason goes, but don't be surprised if the Bengals are frustratingly quiet in those first 48-72 hours of free agency.